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McCaskill introduces line-item veto bill to battle budget deficit

Friday, February 10, 2012 | 9:52 a.m. CST

WASHINGTON — Sen. Claire McCaskill plans to introduce a companion bill on Friday to legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would give President Barack Obama — and future presidents — line-item veto power.

McCaskill said in an interview with The Associated Press that she is uncertain of the bill's prospects but called it important legislation. She said she's introducing it now to capitalize on the momentum from this week's House vote.

"This is not an easy task, but I think it's essential if we want to control spending," she said.

McCaskill is a longtime supporter of the line-item veto, which would give presidents the authority to select specific items in spending bills for elimination.

The legislation McCaskill is introducing is identical to the bill crafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. That legislation cleared the House on Wednesday by 254-173 vote with support from 57 Democrats. Forty-one Republicans voted against it.

Line-item veto power is constitutionally questionable. In 1996, the GOP-controlled House gave line-item veto authority to President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Clinton used it on dozens of items, but in 1998, on a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, saying it violated the principle that Congress, and not the executive branch, holds the power of the purse.

McCaskill and other supporters of the bill say the latest version is written to meet constitutional standards because, though the president can propose items for rescission, or elimination, from a budget bill, Congress must vote on a revised bill. The president then must sign what is in effect a new piece of legislation.

"I think there's some care to ensure it will pass constitutional muster," McCaskill said. "We won't know until we pass it."

The bill passed by the House and being introduced by McCaskill requires that all savings from eliminated programs go to deficit reduction.

It faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which has historically been more protective of constitutional powers. The last time similar legislation came up, in 2007, a bill introduced by former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., garnered 49 votes, well short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic-led filibuster at the time.

Besides McCaskill's effort, four senators — Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Dan Coats of Indiana and Democrats Tom Carper of Delaware and Mark Udall of Colorado — have indicated they'll push to have the legislation added as an amendment to a transportation bill that must pass the Senate. McCaskill said she's also supporting that effort.


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