When it comes to congressional efforts to make a dent in the growing federal deficit, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, finds himself in the same corner as former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan, some 25 years ago, specifically asked Congress for line-item veto authority — the ability to delete specific spending from legislation approved by Congress.
He didn’t get it.
To be fair, Peters also finds himself on the same side of that argument as Reagan and former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
They all asked for the line-item veto too (Clinton had it for a short time).
But Reagan made the most forceful pleas for that budgetary power, repeatedly in State of the Union messages in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988.
“Tonight I ask you to give me what 43 governors have: Give me a line-item veto this year,” Reagan said in his 1986 speech. “Give me the authority to veto waste, and I’ll take the responsibility, I’ll make the cuts, I’ll take the heat.”
Congress, however, didn’t listen.
Congress also didn’t give the line-item veto to Reagan’s successor, Republican George H.W. Bush, who asked for it in State of the Union addresses in 1989 and 1992.
Clinton, the Democrat who succeeded the first Bush, asked for line-item veto authority in 1995 and 1996. Congress obliged in 1996 but the authority was ruled unconstitutional two years later.
President George W. Bush asked for the line-item veto in 2006, but it didn’t go anywhere.
President Barack Obama last May supported a different version of line-item veto that would allow him to send a list of pork barrel spending tacked on to approved legislation back to Congress to vote up or down.
He’s still waiting.
Peters supports a line-item veto for the president and so do we.
“The current levels of deficit spending are not sustainable,” Peters said to The Oakland Press editorial board recently. “I would support a line-item veto for the president.
“These are going to be tough decisions that have to be made. We should take every opportunity to make sure those decisions can be made, otherwise we’re not going to be addressing this problem.”
The argument for it, broadly, is that it gives the president the ability to cut wasteful spending from bills passed by Congress, including the pet projects of senators and representatives more commonly referred to as pork.
Opponents argue the line-item veto essentially usurps the will of Congress and, by extension, the will of the people who elected them.
We’re reminded of President Harry Truman, who had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” Truman’s sign referred to where ultimate responsibility stops in the United States.
We think that applies to fiscal responsibility and financial prudence as well, and that responsibility for the spending of taxpayers’ bucks ultimately stops with the president, no matter who he is.
Congress, so far, has collectively been unable to rein in Washington’s current deficit spending, and conservatives blame much of it on Obama. So why not give the president some form of line-item veto authority that can pass constitutional review? The buck, and the out-of-control spending, have to stop somewhere.
The top is a good place to start.
— From The Oakland Press