Obama seeks way to cut costs from spending bills

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama is sending a proposal to Congress on Monday that would make it quicker and easier to trim wasteful costs from U.S. congressional spending bills, the White House said.

The “Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010” would enable the president to submit a package of cuts, or “rescissions,” to Congress after lawmakers pass the various appropriations bills that fund federal programs every year.

Obama has made spending cuts a key ingredient in his efforts to reduce the U.S. budget deficit, which hit $1.4 trillion in 2009, just shy of 10 percent of the overall economy.

His proposal, which requires congressional approval, would give Obama and his successors a stronger hand in cutting items they do not support from spending bills.

The White House said the proposal differs from a line-item veto in which a president unilaterally cuts specific provisions from a spending bill. The Supreme Court has rejected a presidential line-item veto as unconstitutional.

Under Obama’s proposal, Congress would have to look at the president’s slate of suggested cuts as a package and, without making any amendments, give them an up-or-down vote within a specific period of time.

This would speed up the process used by presidents to reduce special provisions, commonly called “earmarks” or “pork,” that lawmakers add to spending bills, making them more expensive.

U.S. presidents currently have the authority to propose changes to spending bills, but Congress can make changes to the president’s proposals if it wishes.

‘ADDS TO THE ARSENAL’

White House budget director Peter Orszag said the proposal would help tackle the country’s budget challenges.

“It adds to the arsenal in trying to cut back on unnecessary spending,” Orszag told reporters. “It’s not a panacea, but it’s an important additional tool.”

Obama is not the first president to seek greater power to pick through budget bills. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, gained a line-item veto from Congress, but the Supreme Court struck that down in 1998. Republican President George W. Bush sought the same power.

Orszag said this proposal was different from a line-item veto because Congress would still have to pass the slate of proposed cuts before the president could sign them into law.

“The line-item veto gave the knife to the president. That was unconstitutional. Here we are providing a way for the president to give the knife back to Congress to help it cut out unnecessary fat,” he said.

Lawmakers who control spending are likely to bristle at the proposal as they have fiercely fought off previous presidential attempts to challenge their authority.

But with congressional elections in November and voters increasingly nervous over record spending deficits, the proposal is likely to find allies elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats are likely to embrace the proposal, as it resembles a bill they introduced earlier this year.

“We know that restoring fiscal discipline to the federal government means putting strong budget enforcement tools in place,” said Representative Jim Matheson, a Blue Dog leader.

James Horney, the director of federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy organization, said Congress should not give away any of its authority.

“I think it is probably better for the Congress not to give more influence over these matters to the president,” he said.

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(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan; editing by David Alexander and Will Dunham)

Obama seeks way to cut costs from spending bills