As the conservative revenge for the Obama Administration, and the 111th Congress, brews in America, I am hearing more and more talk of a constitutional amendment for “Line Item Veto” power for the President.
It seems like a good idea at first, because we all know how things get done in Washington, Representatives and Senators buy votes for terrible legislation by trading earmarks to bring money back to their states and districts, which helps them buy votes and get re-elected. A way to eliminate that practice seems priceless to many people, and line item veto promises to do it.
For those unaware, currently when a bill is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill goes to the President and he may sign it into law or veto it and send the bill back to the House of Congress from which it originated with his comments. Line Item Veto would allow the president to veto individual line items or sections of a bill, without sending it back to Congress.
The current health care debate gives us great examples of both the good and bad of this power.
On the good side, if President Obama had line item veto power, he could veto the deal Senator Ben Nelson made for his vote, a provision exempting his state from paying the usual share of costs for new Medicaid patients, a deal critics have dubbed the Cornhusker Kickback and is expected to cost the federal government $100 million over 10 years. Or Mary Landrieu’s $300 Million “Louisiana Purchase” Which she has actually bragged about saying “I am not going to be defensive. And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix”. Or Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s $100 Million earmark for a health care facility in his state. So right there, if you trust the President to do so, could have saved us $500 Million.
On the other hand, we have the amendment which prohibits taxpayer funded abortions in the bill, which the President could just as easily veto before passing the bill into law, as well as language which would deny coverage to illegal immigrants.
To keep up my Libertarian habit of attacking Congress and the President in a bipartisan fashion, we wouldn’t have been any better off with this power in the hands of President Bush. The little bit of restraint left in the Patriot act and other Orwellian nightmare legislation passed under his watch could have been removed by line item veto under his watch as well.