Line-item-veto bill moves forward after tense debate

The House Budget Committee backed a line-item veto bill by a vote of 23-13 on Thursday after a tense debate.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), an appropriations subcommittee chairman, led the bipartisan opposition to the bill, which was sponsored by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Opponents said that the bill would give the president the upper hand in closed-door spending talks like those going on this week. 

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Simpson said the White House is always involved in crafting spending deals and to think otherwise is naïve. He said the White House worked through Senate Democrats in the negotiations on the Interior, Environment bill, which wrapped up earlier this week.  

“We had the magician behind the curtain, and the Senate was just the front man,” he said. 

“When I have a gun on my hip, it changes the nature of our conversation,” said Tom Cole (R-Okla.)

Opponents also argued that the bill is unconstitutional, though it is not a true line-item veto. The bill would allow the president to request rescissions of appropriated funds within 45 days after a bill is enacted and to have that request receive an up-or-down vote in Congress.

Congress briefly granted the president true line-item veto powers in the 1990s, but the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional in 1998.

Some committee Democrats and Republicans held up the 1,200 page omnibus spending bill, set to come to the House floor this week, as an example of the type of bad legislating that cries out for some type of line-item veto. 

The committee voted down two amendments that would have expanded the rescissions involved to include mandatory spending such as on entitlements and to loopholes in the tax code.

Voting against the bill were Simpson, Cole and Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.),  Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).

Several supporters said they were won over by the fact the line-item veto bill sunsets after four years.

Ryan said afterward that he hopes to bring the bill to the floor early next year along with nine other budget reform bills.