Saturday, June 24, 2006

House approves watered-down line-item veto

Yahoo! News reported President Bush would receive greater power to try to kill "pork barrel" spending projects under a bill passed Thursday by the House. Lawmakers voted to give Bush and his successor a weaker version of the line-item veto law struck down by the Supreme Court in 1998,

I would much prefer a constitution ammendment giving the President the same power that most Governors have, but this is better than nothing.
despite a recent series of lopsided votes in which they've rallied to preserve each other's back-home projects. The new power would expire after six years. The idea advances amid increasing public concern about lawmakers' penchant for stuffing parochial projects into spending bills that the president must accept or reject in their entirety. The House passed the bill by a 247-172 vote. Thirty-five Democrats joined with most Republicans in voting for the bill; 15 Republicans opposed the measure and others voted for the bill despite private reservations. The measure must still pass the Senate, and that's by no means a certainty. The bill would allow the president to single out items contained in appropriations bills he signs into law, and it would require Congress to vote on those items again. It also could be used against increases in benefit programs and tax breaks aimed at a single beneficiary. Under the proposal, it would take a simple majority in both the House and the Senate to approve the items over the president's objections. The hope is that wasteful spending or special interest tax breaks would be vulnerable since Congress might vote to reject such items once they are no longer protected by their inclusion in bigger bills that the president has little choice but to sign. "The line item veto is a critical tool that will help rein in wasteful spending and bring greater transparency to the budget process," Bush said in a statement after the vote. Supporters said lawmakers would think twice before slipping poorly conceived projects into spending bills. "The success of this bill will be less in the amount of pork that we line-item veto out and more in how much pork never gets put into the legislation in the first place," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Ryan (news, bio, voting record), R-Wis. The bill is a far weaker version of the line-item veto that Republicans in Congress gave President Clinton in 1996. That bill allowed Clinton to strike items from appropriations and tax bills unless Congress mustered a two-thirds margin to override him.
We need a constitutional ammendment for that.
The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional two years later because it let the president change laws passed by Congress.

Captain Ed blogged It goes next to the Senate, where significant opposition exists. The idea of giving the executive branch the power to deny specific funding rankles those who already view this administration as a problem in terms of power-sharing. However, the Senate itself has shown almost no discipline in reforming its own appropriations processes, porking up one bill after another shamelessly. It took a conference committee to strip out $15.5 billion of pork added to an emergency spending measure intended to fund our deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as provide more assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Supporters need to keep the pressure on their Senators to vote for the new line-item veto. We need to make clear that those who hold out for a broken and corrupt system of appropriations will not long be trusted to handle the taxpayers' money.


Pork Busters blogged Republicans, particularly on the House side, appear to be waking up in time and distancing themselves from the electoral implosion toward which their spendthriftedness and immigration policy tin-ear had had them drifting. Combined with the Democrats' latest self-immolations on the war, those GOP majorities are looking safer all the time.

Mark Noonan blogged A line item veto is a good thing, but I'm not sure this is the way to go about it - what seems to be happening here is an attempt at a soft line-item veto which will somehow skirt 'round the Supreme Court's rejection of same back in the Clinton Administration. I don't see how this will work - much better to just pass the real thing, and then add a provision excluding the operation of the line item from Federal judicial scruitiny (as provided for in the Constituiton which states that the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction as regulated by the Congress).

14 comments:

johnwk said...

Don,

I believe your hearts in the right place but you are not thinking very clearly and to a conclusion.

I know some members in Congress parade the line-item-veto in front of the public from time to time, which they ultimately do to give the impression they are concerned about our national debt. So why haven’t they drafted a proposed constitutional amendment which you have brought up? Seems to me if such an amendment were drafted and by some accident it went to the state’s for ratification, some of the various states, which now exercise line-item-veto to control reckless fiscal policies, would have their dirty dark secrets exposed and the line-item-veto would be shown to be meaningless!
You see, almost all states practice line-item veto now and are also swimming in horrific un-funded debt liabilities just as the federal government is. “The National Association of State Budget Officers considers state debt in excess of $1,200 per capita to be unmanageable. Illinois is now at almost twice the "unmanageable" level, with over $2,000 in state debt per capita -- not including the $40 billion in unfunded pension obligations.” Truth is, un-funded state employee pension funds are a ticking time bomb, even with line-item-veto powers being exercised in almost all the states!

So, if an amendment were sent to the states for ratification, someone is bound to make the point during the states’ ratification hearings: If line item veto is supposed to impose fiscal discipline, then how is that our state, which has been practicing line item veto for many, many years, has an un-funded state pension fund and is swimming in an ocean of debt?

It is beyond me why anyone who is concerned about Congress’ reckless spending and borrowing would support the President having “line-item-veto power”. How does it force fiscal accountability upon Congress? How does it end pork barrel spending?
Keep in mind many of the ring leaders which crafted a balanced budget amendment in the 1980’s are the same crowd which now proposes a legislative line item veto power for the president. What do both proposals have in common? The proposed balanced budget amendment was filled with loopholes to allow Congress to continued in its reckless spending and borrowing, and, the proposed line-item-veto likewise does squat to force or encourage fiscal discipline upon Congress___ the objective of this crowd is nothing more than to give the illusion that they are fiscal conservatives and different than their opposing political rivals.

If the ring leaders of the line-item veto, such as Sen. Gregg, and Bill Frist were sincere in wanting to control reckless spending and borrowing, and wanted to create a mechanism to encourage Congress to start practicing sound fiscal policy, they ought to be promoting our Founding Father’s solution.

Under the founders solution, if insufficient revenue was raised by Congress from its normal taxing powers, and Congress borrowed to meet its expenses creating a deficit, Congress was then intended to lay an apportioned tax among the states for the total sum of the deficit created and extinguish it. The deficiency created by Congress’ borrowing is to be raised by apportioning the sum among the states in such a manner that each state receives a bill to pay into the federal treasury a share of the total deficit based upon its number of votes in Congress___ representation with proportion obligation. What a novel idea___ those in Congress with the biggest mouths when it comes to spending, get to pay a share in proportion to their big mouth.

Of course, this would create a moment of accountability in which each state’s Congressional Delegation would have to return to their own state with a bill, and then explain to their Governor and state Legislature who would have to raise this money, why Congress was unable to raise sufficient revenue from impost, duties and excise taxes to meet its expenses and Congress resorted to borrowing to pay for all its pork.

Accountability. Its all about creating a moment of accountability.


Regards,

JWK

Representation with proportional obligation…a most formidable idea which encourages fiscal discipline!

Don Singleton said...

They dont do it because they dont want to lose the power, but I fully agree we need a constitutional ammendment.

The line item veto does not guarantee anything, but it would go a long way to fiscal responsibility

johnwk said...

Don, you wrote:

"The line item veto does not guarantee anything, but it would go a long way to fiscal responsibility "



How does it go a long way to force fiscal accountability upon Congress? How does it go a long way in ending pork barrel spending?

If line item veto were available to the executive branch of government, special interest projects and pork barrel spending favored by the president would prevail over projects and pork disfavored by the president.


Line item veto merely allows the president to determine which pork is o.k., and may also be used by the president to blackmail the national Legislature to adopt special interest legislation which the president may want, which may actually increase pork spending for projects the president wants.

I suggest you read the following analysis: PROPOSED LINE-ITEM VETO LEGISLATION WOULD INVITE ABUSE BY EXECUTIVE BRANCH

As to creating a real mechanism to encourage fiscal responsibility from members of Congress, a requirement to extinguish annual deficits created by Congress by the founding fathers intended apportioned tax among the states is what would go a long way to create fiscal responsibility!

Picture for a moment the expression on the faces of the Governor of New York and the New York State Legislature, if New York should receive a bill for its apportioned share [29/435] of the 2005 federal deficit and the Governor and Legislature would have to raise this money and then transfer it into the federal treasury.. This threat would create a compelling incentive for the Governor of each state, and the various state legislatures, to keep a jealous eye on the spending habits of their Congressional Delegation . . . it would require the fiscal accountability which the state governments once demanded from their Senate and House Members!


Regards,

JWK

Don Singleton said...

How does it go a long way to force fiscal accountability upon Congress? How does it go a long way in ending pork barrel spending?

Now congress can lard up any bill with as much pork as they want, and the president must veto the entire bill to prevent those earmarks from becoming law. With a line item veto, he could remove specific items of pork, and still retain the rest of the bill.

If line item veto were available to the executive branch of government, special interest projects and pork barrel spending favored by the president would prevail over projects and pork disfavored by the president.

And why is that not better than approving the pork barrel projects he supports AND the projects he does not support. At least line item veto lets him get rid of a lot of pork.

Picture for a moment the expression on the faces of the Governor of New York and the New York State Legislature, if New York should receive a bill for its apportioned share [29/435] of the 2005 federal deficit and the Governor and Legislature would have to raise this money and then transfer it into the federal treasury.

I suspect he would need some clean shorts.

Actually what you suggest sounds like reverse revenue sharing. I would be happy just to stop regular revenue sharing, where the Feds send money to the states to spend as they want.


This threat would create a compelling incentive for the Governor of each state, and the various state legislatures, to keep a jealous eye on the spending habits of their Congressional Delegation . . . it would require the fiscal accountability which the state governments once demanded from their Senate and House Members!

Actually I doubt if the states would pay the bill. How would you force them?

johnwk said...

Actually I doubt if the states would pay the bill. How would you force them?

By following the agreed upon rules concerning the direct tax and by the same methods when it was imposed in our nation‘s history!

"SECTION 1. Congress ought not raise money by borrowing, but when the money arising from imposts duties and excise taxes are insufficient to meet the public exigencies, and Congress has raised money by borrowing during the course of a fiscal year, Congress shall then lay a direct tax at the beginning of the next fiscal year for an amount sufficient to extinguish the preceding fiscal year's deficit, and apply the revenue so raised to extinguishing said deficit."

"SECTION 2. When Congress is required to lay a direct tax in accordance with Section 1 of this Article, Congress shall immediately calculate each State's apportioned share of the tax based upon its number of Representatives as allotted by the Constitution, and then notify the Executive of each State of its apportioned share of the total tax being collected and a final date by which said tax shall be paid into the United States Treasury."

"SECTION 3. Each State shall be free to assume and pay its quota of the direct tax into the United States Treasury by the final date set by Congress, but if any State shall refuse or neglect to pay its quota, then Congress shall send forth its officers to assess and levy such State's proportion against the real property within the State with interest thereon at the rate of ((?)) per cent per annum, and against the individual owners of such property. Provision shall be made for a 15% discount for those States paying their share by ((?))of the fiscal year in which the tax is laid, and a 10% discount for States paying by the final date set by Congress, such discount being to defray the States' cost of collection."

And, here is the history of this tax being used!

APPORTIONMENT OF A DIRECT TAX TO RAISE A TOTAL OF $ 2 MILLION TREASURY DEPARTMENT MAY 25TH

An Act to lay and collect a direct tax within the united states [1st direct tax July 14, 1789 for $2 million and each state’s share of the $2million being raised.]



An Act to repeal the internal taxes April 3rd, 1802

An Act for the assessment and collection of direct taxes, July 22, 1813

Act laying a direct tax for $3 million August 2, 1813, and each state’s share of the tax

Section 7 of direct tax of 1813 allowing states to pay their respective quotas and be entitled to certain deductions.


And for a $20 million direct tax being imposed upon the states in 1861, and the amounts required to be paid by each of the various states, see HERE and use the buttons at the bottom of the page to go forward and backward to read the legislation.


Regards,

JWK, founder
American Constitutional Research Service

Don Singleton said...

Well I must admit, it is an interesting approach.

johnwk said...

Bottom line…the Founder’s Plan worked so well that by the close of the year 1835, the national debt [which included part of the revolutionary war debt] was completely extinguished and Congress enjoyed a surplus in the federal treasury from tariffs, duties, and customs. And so, by an Act of Congress in June of 1836 all surplus revenue in excess of $ 5,000,000 was decided to be distributed among the states, and eventually a total of $28,000,000 was distributed among the states by the rule of apportionment in the nature of interest free loans to the states to be recalled if and when Congress decided to make such a recall.

As I said, the secret is to make members of Congress immediately accountable to their state Governor and Legislature when they create a deficit by borrowing to fund their pork barrel spending! The founders’ direct tax does that!

Don Singleton said...

That might work if the governor appointed Senators and Congress Critters, but the governor only appoints Senators to fill out a term, and they never appoint Congress Critters.

johnwk said...

I don’t think it makes much of a difference that members of Congress are elected by the people.

Members of Congress get to go back home and then pay the very tax they were forced to lay to extinguish the deficit they created by borrowing.

Property owners who voted these scoundrels into office also get to pay the additional tax because of the policies adopted by their spendthrift members of Congress

The various state Governors and Legislators, in addition to having to also pay the additional tax, are burdened with the responsibility of transferring their state’s share from the state treasury into the treasury of the United States, or increasing taxes within the state which is then transferred into the treasury of the United States.

I do not think paying an extra tax will be welcomed by the voters who have to pay it, which includes the Governor of the State and the various state legislators, who will be very quick to point to their state’s Congressional Delegation’s reckless spending and borrowing in order to further their own political careers during election time.

In summary, When Congress borrows to meet its pork expenditures, Congress is then required to lay the apportioned tax which, at the very least, extinguishes the deficit and prevents the national debt from increasing and mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.

The remaining question is, will the Governors of each state and state Legislators, along with property owners who will be burdened with an additional tax to extinguish the deficit created by Congress’ borrowing, hold their reckless members of Congress accountable?

You seem to believe they wont be held accountable. I believe the direct tax creates a very real incentive for accountability to take place and they will be held accountable, and taxpayers may even have tar and feather surprise parties waiting for their spendthrift members of Congress to return home after laying the direct tax.


JWK

Don Singleton said...

How do you invoke this procedure. I would assume it would take a law, passed by both housed of congress, and signed by the President.

Do you really think that congress would pass this law if it was going to cause grief to the people that elected them?

johnwk said...

No grief if Congress stops reckless spending and borrowing!

But tell me, how are other provisions of our Constitution enforced?

Don Singleton said...

Agree that is a good objective.

The courts enforce the Constitution, that is why I want line item veto in the constitution (like it is in most states)

johnwk said...

Well, Don, after reading the language of the proposed line-item-veto, I found nothing in the language requiring Congress or the President to practice sound fiscal policies, nor anything in the language to prohibit pork barrel spending, or spending on objects not authorized by Constitution. So, what would the Courts be enforcing? How would a Court’s decision enforce sound fiscal policies? What part of the language of the proposed legislative line item veto requires sound fiscal policies to be practiced which the Court may enforce?

You seem to defend line item veto by saying most states utilize line item veto. But you do not explain how line item veto encourages fiscal discipline within the states where it is practiced.

The sad truth is, line item veto does nothing, absolutely nothing, to encourage fiscal discipline.

As I previously pointed out, almost all states practice line-item veto now and are also swimming in horrific un-funded debt liabilities just as the federal government is. “The National Association of State Budget Officers considers state debt in excess of $1,200 per capita to be unmanageable. Illinois is now at almost twice the "unmanageable" level, with over $2,000 in state debt per capita -- not including the $40 billion in unfunded pension obligations.” Truth is, un-funded state employee pension funds are a ticking time bomb, even with line-item-veto powers being exercised in almost all the states!

So, once again, we get back to fundamental questions which need to be answered by those who support the proposed legislative line item veto.

How would the proposed line item veto force fiscal disciple upon Congress? How does it put an end to pork barrel spending? How does the proposed power prevent the president from engaging in the same reckless spending now engaged in by Congress?

Seems to me if line item veto were available to the executive branch of government, special interest projects and pork barrel spending favored by the president would prevail over projects and pork disfavored by the president.

From where is stand the proposed line item veto is a meaningless and futile exercise in controlling reckless spending and merely allows the president a heavy hand in determining which pork is o.k., and, such power may also be used by the president to blackmail the national Legislature into adopting special interest legislation which the president may want, which would actually increase pork spending to accommodate the special interest pork the president wants!

I suggest you read the following analysis: PROPOSED LINE-ITEM VETO LEGISLATION WOULD INVITE ABUSE BY EXECUTIVE BRANCH

If you want to encourage Congress to end reckless spending and practice sound fiscal policies, there must be incentives and self regulating checks and balances to accomplish those goals. I think it is safe to acknowledge there will always be a certain degree of irresponsible spending. So, our goal ought to be to limit irresponsible spending to an irrelevant level. Can that be done? Let us explore a concept. If Congress were not allowed to tax tools of production nor supplies and materials necessary to conduct Americas businesses and only allowed to raise its revenue by selecting specifically chosen articles of luxury, and compelled to place a specific amount of tax on each specific article chosen, suddenly the market place would determine the allowable amount of tax on each article chosen by Congress, and such a tax would also limit the total amount of tax Congress could raise, which would be tied to the consumption of luxury. In addition, under this method of taxing, it is suddenly in Congress’ best interest to adopt sound fiscal policies beneficial to America’s businesses, industries and labor because a vibrant and healthy economy would increase the purchase of articles of luxury by the people and in return, they would supply the lifeblood of Congress Assembled.

So, if the people are enjoying the consumption of luxury, and the federal treasury is filled from such consumption, Congress’ spending on pork produces an irrelevant effect as it is fueled by trickle down taxes from the consumption of luxury.

Actually, the above concept is part of the Founding Father’s plan, and if you are interested in reading a brief summary of that plan, you can find it HERE.

Regards,

JWK

Don Singleton said...

The Line Item Veto does not guarantee fiscal responsibility; it is just a tool that could help a Chief Executive that wants to control spending to do so.

Most state Governors have it. Some use it properly, some don't, but I think it is good that they have it.

The founding fathers wanted a lot of things. For one they thought the contry they were founding would honor God; they just wanted to make sure that the Federal Government did not declare an official State Church for the entire country, since at least six states had their own State Churches at the time, and they did not want the federal goverment to trump their own official church with one of its own.

The thought they were coming up with a government that would leave most of the governing to the states, and that the federal government would just take care of a limited number of things.

Boy were they wrong.