House Passes Line-Item-Veto Budget Reform

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon to approve a line-item veto for the president, granting the commander in chief discretion to slash spending while preserving Congress's power to control spending levels.

By a count of 254-173, lawmakers voted to approve the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011. The measure amends the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to provide for a legislative line-item veto to expedite consideration of rescissions. Fifty-seven Democrats voted in favor of the measure, while 41 Republicans opposed it.

The bill was co-authored by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen. The bill would enable the president to suggest specific rescissions to legislation passed by Congress. Those cuts would then have to be approved by Congress, but if lawmakers agree to the cuts, the bill becomes law.

Supporters - Republican and Democrat alike - say it's an important tool that affords the executive branch and Congress the ability to control wasteful spending, but also keep the power of the purse in Congress.

"Washington spends too much money that we don't have on programs that can't be justified. This bipartisan reform will help lawmakers do a better job of prioritizing hardworking taxpayers' dollars," Ryan said. "This new tool to control spending is the result of Democrats and Republicans coming together in good faith to take a step forward in tackling our deficit challenge."

"Budget process reform alone cannot be a substitute for judgment, nor does it replace the urgent need to put Americans back to work and to put our nation on a path toward long-term fiscal sustainability," said Van Hollen, D-Md. "But this bill provides for great accountability and can help ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely."

Most of the House Democratic leadership voted against the measure. Only Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California voted for it, while Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Assistant Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut, and Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra of California all voted against the legislation.

At his pen and pad briefing earlier this week, Hoyer said he opposed the bill because it "diminishes the authority of the Congress under Article I to establish spending levels and appropriate funds to priorities that it deems appropriate."

"Let's say you have a billion-dollar item that the president says ought to be rescinded and we vote to rescind it. You could not use that money for other priorities that could not be funded because you are not funding that particular item," Hoyer said. "Once we deal with a dollar level, I think that the Congress can change it, the Congress can - but it ought not to be done by some rescission process."

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is likely to join a slate of House-passed jobs bills that have stalled because of Democratic opposition.