"Passing the Knife Back to Congress" - More on President's Plan to Cut Spending

Congress does not want a President, any President, to meddle in its spending habits. So President Obama is not asking for a powerful "line-item veto" that would enable him to strike down specific requests for what many deem to be pork barrel projects. Instead, he’s asking for the ability to send spending bills back to Congress with a list of provisions that should be considered for an up or down vote on. In theory the knife gets passed from one branch of government to the other. "The line-item veto gave the knife to the president," Office of Management and Budget Director, Peter Orszag, told reporters in a White House conference call. "Here, we are providing the president with the knife to give back to congress to help it cut out unnecessary fat."

President Obama already has the ability to ask Congress for rescissions but has yet to take out the knife. According to the Heritage Foundation, since 1990, Presidents have proposed rescinding $20 billion within $43 trillion worth of federal spending. Of that $20 billion, Congress has approved only $6 billion worth of rescissions. "The power of the purse lies with Congress," Alison Fraser Director, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies says. "Why would they vote to get rid of something when they spent months and months wrangling over it?"

Orszag believes this new legislation will appeal to those who are already fiscally responsible. "You are going to see an embrace from those who are most concerned about eliminating unnecessary spending," Orszag said. Congressional members typically add individual measures to spending bills for their home districts. But with the "Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010," Orszag says instead of vetoing an entire bill based on egregious items, it would be "fast tracked...it would be very transparent what the vote was about."

Orszag says the legislation would not be the "end all be all" but an important tool in a President's "arsenal" to cut back unnecessary spending, adding that the President has already worked with Congress to reduce earmark spending, put a three year freeze on non-discretionary spending, and signed the "pay-go" legislation earlier this year in which bills cannot be enacted unless they are already paid for.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finds President Obama’s new proposal ironic, saying “the President would have this authority already if he and members of his administration hadn’t blocked similar legislation when they served in the Senate.”