House Chamber remarks by Congressman Tom McClintock in support of HR 3521 – Line Item Veto
February 8, 2012
This bill presents us with a simple question: “It is possible – just possible – that from time to time Congress has passed a spending bill or two that ought to have had greater scrutiny?” The answer to this question might elude some members of the House, but I assure them it is self-evident to everybody else.
A country whose finances are as far out of control as ours suffers not from too many checks and balances on spending, but from too few.
Opponents discuss this bill as if it were a new and radical idea. The fact is, many states operate with a genuine line item veto and have for generations.
For those states, it has been an important tool to control their spending, and those provisions are far more stringent than what is proposed here.
In conformance with our Constitution, this bill simply invites the President to call to Congress’s attention those spending items he recommends that we give additional thought to and to put a six-week hold on those funds while we do so.
In fact, from 1801 until 1974, the President had the recognized authority to impound excess spending indefinitely – a legitimate executive function first asserted by President Thomas Jefferson. The Budget Act of 1974 stripped the executive of this vital check on Congressional excess.
I would prefer to see us restore that fiscal safeguard, or better still, amend the Constitution to provide the President an actual line item veto.
But let’s at least set up a process so the President can warn us when he believes we have appropriated more money than he needs to execute the laws that we pass.
This bill is frankly a mouse when we need a lion. The fact that it has produced shrieks of horror from some quarters of the House is an exact measure of the extent and nature of our problem.
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