Earmarks are where certain senators put in specific language into a bill which allows spending to occur for a specific item. I’m not inherently opposed to earmarks. Many are very genuinely of good purpose, and I’ve used it in cases to benefit programs which I thought were appropriate. And in fact, I think the Legislative Branch has a right to direct spending. If you don't direct spending in the Legislative Branch, then the Executive Branch has the authority to direct spending. The practical effect of that is the Legislative Branch is giving up one of its key powers, which is the power over spending. However, there have over the years been abuses of the earmark process. We all know that, and we've seen it. There have actually been abuses which have been unethical. We've seen that in recent times. And so, the key, I believe, to earmark reform is transparency and allowing the Congress and the people we represent to see what is being earmarked and allow the Congress to actually have to vote on it.

So the idea of the enhanced rescission proposal, I call it A Second Look at Waste proposal, is to allow the President to send back to the Congress items which he feels or she feels were inappropriately put in some other bill and which did not receive an up-or-down vote. Now how could that happen, people might ask? It happens very simply. A lot of vehicles that we pass here, a lot of laws that we pass here, a lot of spending proposals that we pass here, involve literally tens of billions, sometimes hundreds of billions of dollars in spending. And what will happen is these bills, which have these huge conglomerates of spending activity in them, which are known as omnibus bills, sometimes find embedded in them smaller items of spending which were put in there for the purposes of accomplishing specific activity by specific members of the Congress, sometimes at the specific request of people who have been asking for those programs.

What this Second Look at Waste amendment does is allow the President on four different occasions to send back to the Congress a group of what would be earmarks in most instances for the Congress to vote on again. And essentially say to the Congress, those items which were buried in this great big bill, those specific little items, they should be reviewed, and Congress should have to vote them up or down. Congress then, by a majority vote, must vote on whether or not it approves those specific spending items. And that's called enhanced rescission. It is not a line-item veto. A line-item veto is where the President can go in and line-item out a specific item and then send it back to the Congress, and the Congress by a two-thirds vote must vote to override the President's proposal to eliminate the spending. In this instance, the Congress retains the right to spend this money if a majority of the Congress decides to spend the money in either House.

So as a practical matter, it's a much, much weaker, dramatically weaker proposal than what is known as the line-item veto, which passed here in the early 1990's and was ruled unconstitutional. It has been drafted in a way so it has been tracked very closely the language by Senator Byrd back in 1995 and was then called enhanced rescission.