House in no rush to boost Obama's power over congressional spending

The House appears in no rush to move on a White House proposal to bolster the president’s authority over congressional spending despite a new endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday would not commit to scheduling a vote for a bill on the so-called rescission authority, saying she would wait to gauge the proposal’s level of support. Yet she offered her personal backing for the measure, which would allow the president to identify specific cuts to congressional spending bills after they are signed into law.

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“I would like to see how the votes are going on it, but that's something I certainly support,” Pelosi said.

Her comments signal fresh momentum for a proposal she had met with only neutral words when President Barack Obama announced it before Memorial Day.

Under the proposal, the president would be able to cut from spending bills items he deems wasteful. Congress would then vote on the package of rescissions, without amendment, within 45 days. The proposal for expedited rescission authority is considered a compromise to the line-item veto, which presidents have long sought but which the Supreme Court has ruled an unconstitutional infringement on Congress’s power of the purse.

The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the president’s proposal on Thursday; the panel’s chairman, Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), is a chief sponsor of the bill. A companion bill in the Senate was unveiled Wednesday by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Pelosi highlighted a related bill introduced in March by freshman Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), which would give the president expedited rescission authority but force congressional action in a shorter timeframe and cap the amount of spending the president could propose for cuts. Pelosi said Minnick recently presented his proposal at a meeting of first-term lawmakers, where it received strong support.

The push could hold political promise for both the administration and Congress in an election-year environment in which government spending looms large. Minnick and other vulnerable House Democrats are looking to tout efforts to cut the deficit and control spending.

Yet veteran appropriators have long resisted efforts by the executive branch to wrest spending power from Congress. When Obama proposed a national commission on deficit reduction early this year, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have forced Congress to vote on the panel’s recommendations. Instead, Obama had to create the commission by executive order, with only a verbal commitment from Democratic congressional leaders that its recommendations would be brought to the floor.