The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, S. 2086, precisely mirrors a House-passed bill, the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act, H.R. 3521, and would give the president — and subsequent residents of the Oval Office — 45 days to review budgets and make rescissions that would require the approval of the Congress.

Under current law, when a bill lands on the president's desk he is faced with a binary choice — sign it into law or veto it, meaning that in practice earmarks and unnecessary spending often slip through as minor parts of large and unwieldy pieces of legislation the president is reluctant to kill. 

McCaskill, who is perhaps the Democrats’ foremost opponent of earmarking in the Senate, said in a statement on Thursday she hopes her legislation, released Friday in the Congressional Record, would allow the president to scrub legislation clean of wasteful spending before he signs it into law.


“This bill would give the President a new way to reduce the deficit by striking wasteful spending and pet projects of members of Congress,” she said.

The legislation, which passed by a bipartisan majority in the House, could also help burnish McCaskill's credentials as a leading Senate centrist — a boost she can use as she fights an uphill battle to maintain her seat as a Democrat in a state that narrowly voted against Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

The bill differs from the line-item veto authority that former 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 stuck down as unconstitutional, because it gave the executive branch the power of the purse, which constitutionally belongs to Congress. McCaskill’s bill would likely avoid such a legal challenge by sending the legislation back to the House for approval.

—Pete Kasperowicz contributed.