The House on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow Congress to quickly consider budget rescission recommendations made by the president, a proposal that many Republicans and Democrats said could help reduce the budget deficit.
Members approved the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act, H.R. 3521, by a 254-173 vote.
The bill split both parties considerably, but support from most Republicans and several dozen Democrats allowed it to pass by a healthy margin. Among Republicans, the vote was 197-41 in favor of the bill, and among Democrats, the vote was 57-132 against.
The bill differs from the line-item veto authority that President Clinton had in the mid- to late 1990s, which he could use to veto specific spending proposals within an overall bill. That authority was found to be unconstitutional, since it gave the executive branch the power of the purse, which rightly belongs to Congress.
The bill approved today would allow the president to make rescission recommendations, within 45 days of passage, that have to be acted on by Congress.
The lead sponsors of the bill, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE (R-Wis.) and ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said the required action by Congress means it is consistent with the Constitution.
During debate, that assertion was challenged by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the bill is enough of a shift of power toward the executive branch and away from the Congress that it raises constitutional questions.
"The line-item veto would weaken that power, shifting budgetary authority to the executive branch and giving the president a power that our founding fathers did not see fit to give him," Rogers said. "The framers would surely shake their heads at the idea of transferring this much authority to the executive branch."
The debate split Republicans on the Appropriations and Budget committees, and some Budget Committee members rose to the defense of the bill by saying Congress has shown an unwillingness to use its authority to cut spending.
"Spending has run rampant in Washington, and it's because 'no' is not a word that Congress is used to when it comes to spending," Rep. Reid RibbleReid James RibbleThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Influential Republicans threaten to form new party Former Sen. Tom Coburn dies at 72 MORE (R-Wis.) said.
One member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), bucked his GOP colleagues on that committee and said he supports the bill.
"I lose no sleep at night over whether a president of my party or the other party can take action to … send back some spending that we have done here and force Congress reaffirm it," he said.
Before the final vote, the House approved a technical revisions amendment to the bill by voice vote from Ryan, and rejected an amendment from Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.). Alexander's amendment would have prohibited the president from proposing any rescission to funds appropriated for the Corps of Engineers.
Ryan argued that Congress should not start making exceptions to the authority of the president to make rescission recommendations, and the amendment was rejected 128-300.
House passage sends the bill to the Senate, which has not made any firm plans for taking up the bill.