This week, the House passed legislation to give Congress and the president an important tool to help reduce spending and balance the budget. The Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act would provide a constitutional way to target the pork-belly projects that get included in the giant budget bills passed by Congress the past few years.
As a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, I was pleased to see this legislation finally brought to the floor. As early as 2010, a similar proposal had been included in the Blue Dogs’ 2010 Blueprint for Fiscal Reform — a comprehensive, 15-point plan to balance the budget and lay the groundwork for sound fiscal policies over the long term.
Under the legislation, the president would be able to transmit a special message to Congress proposing to cancel any amount of discretionary budget authority. Legislation implementing the proposed cancellations would receive expedited floor consideration and an automatic up-or-down vote without amendments.
Any savings from these rescissions would go toward deficit reductions and statutory discretionary spending caps would be adjusted downward to reflect the savings. The act also has a sunset provision on December 15, 2015.
Over the past few years, we’ve all seen the types of projects that get included in spending bills despite widespread opposition. But these projects continue to get funded because they are incorporated in “must-pass” omnibus bills.
In fact, for 15 years straight, Congress has failed to pass its appropriations bills on time. This has resulted in large bills developed without proper congressional review and oversight, contributing to a debt that tops $15 trillion.
With expedited recession, the president can force Congress to take up-or-down votes on these controversial projects. Congress will finally have to put “its money where its mouth is” and stop hiding behind “must-pass” legislation as an excuse for wasteful spending.
It is past time for Congress and the president to work together and balance the budget. This legislation gives us an important tool to highlight unnecessary spending and require a clean vote on controversial spending measures. And with the sunset provision included in the bill, Congress has the flexibility necessary to make changes to the provision in the future.
Four other provisions of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Blueprint for Fiscal Reform have already become federal policy. It is time for the Senate to take up this bipartisan measure and make it the fifth. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common-sense reforms to restore fiscal discipline.
Mike Michaud represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.