President Obama Monday urged Congress to give him new authority to identify wasteful spending tucked away in large spending bills and to bundle such items together and send them back to Congress for an up or down vote.

It's not veto power, but it is a tool to fight waste and has support in both parties. Spending, it now seems clear, will be a central — if not the central issue — in this fall's election. With the federal deficit at previously unheard of levels and the national debt on course to double in less than 10 years, the public is alarmed.

If Obama had not noticed, the defeat of three Senate incumbents in recent primaries surely got his attention. All were members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which used to be a big reelection plus, but not this year.

So can the president and his party recast themselves after the $862 billion stimulus spending and the trillion-dollar health care reform bill as the party of fiscal austerity? Maybe, but it's worth noting the president now also wants Congress to pass an additional $23 billion to bail out local school districts which, despite the billions in stimulus cash they've already gotten, now say they will soon be forced to lay off teachers.

Oh, and Democratic Senator Casey of Pennsylvania is calling for another $165 billion to bail out union pension funds. Which should give you an idea why the hardest thing to do in Washington is not to raise taxes or even to go to war — it's to cut spending.

Brit Hume is the senior political analyst for Fox News Channel.