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Bush asks Congress for 'line-item veto' power
Updated: 2006-03-07 11:10

President George W. Bush, who has never vetoed legislation, asked the US Congress on Monday to give him a line-item veto that would allow him to propose canceling specific spending projects.

But the proposal faces hurdles because an earlier version that Congress passed under former President Bill Clinton was rejected by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

US President George W. Bush speaks during a swearing in ceremony for Edward Lazear as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors at the Eisenhower Executive Office Buildings in Washington, March 6, 2006. Seeking to rein in spending, Bush will announce legislation today requesting a line-item veto, the power to cancel specific items within spending bills, the White House said. [Reuters]

Bush said the 1998 court decision "should not be the end of the story," and said the legislation he offered to Congress was crafted in a way to satisfy the court's concerns.

"By passing this version of the line-item veto, the administration will work with the Congress to reduce wasteful spending, reduce the budget deficit and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said he would introduce the bill.

In striking down the Clinton-era line-item veto by a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court said Congress was not authorized under the Constitution to hand the president that power.

The White House said its proposal would differ from that 1996 law, which allowed the president to reject specific spending items after a bill was passed by Congress.

Under the Bush proposal, the president would propose getting rid of items he considered wasteful and then send the package back to Congress. Congress would have 10 days to hold an up or down vote on the package of proposed changes.

"With this proposal, I think the responsibilities of the two branches would be well balanced in that the president would have the ability to line out an item, but only with the approval of a majority of Congress," White House budget director Joshua Bolten said.

Democrats, who have criticized Bush's tax cuts as fiscally reckless, said a line-item veto was no panacea for deficits.

"The Bush administration has spent us into record deficits and piled mountains of debt onto our children," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said. But she added, "budget experts agree that the line-item veto would do little to control deficits."

Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who ran against Bush in the 2004, supported the line-item veto proposal, which mirrored one Kerry had previously proposed.

"Billions of dollars are being wasted on things like research to enhance the flavor of roasted peanuts and the infamous 'bridge to nowhere,'" Kerry said.

Announcing the line-item veto proposal at a swearing-in ceremony for Ed Lazear, his new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Bush said it would allow him to take aim at "special-interest spending."


A major congressional lobbying scandal involving Jack Abramoff and the conviction of former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham on bribery charges have put a spotlight on pet projects that lawmakers often add to bills to please constituents in their home states.

Conservatives have criticized Bush for the surge in federal spending on his watch.
One example of a pet project critics often cite is a bridge proposal in Alaska ridiculed as the "Bridge to Nowhere" because it would have served a very small population.

The bridge was part of $287 billion transportation bill that many conservatives had urged Bush to veto. Bush signed the transportation bill and hailed it as a job-creating measure.

Spending on the Alaska bridge was later canceled, but the state received the money anyway in its general transportation funds.

Republicans worry that big deficits could hurt them in this year's midterm election in which Democrats are seeking to regain control of both houses of Congress.

The Bush administration has forecast a fiscal 2006 budget deficit of US$423 billion, an all-time high.

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