Line-item quest triggers how-to advice on vetoes


President Obama’s call for a modified line-item veto ran into the buzz saw of congressional prerogative on Thursday, with a swell of bipartisan lawmakers telling the White House to use the veto authority it already has in the Constitution rather than take more power from Congress.

The White House has urged Congress to pass new line-item authority as a key way to force Congress to trim spending. But Republicans and Democrats on the House Budget Committee told the White House that Mr. Obama should bargain with Congress to lower spending using existing tools.

“The president isn’t restrained by present law to veto a bill and suggest if you take these out I’ll sign the bill,” said Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat. “We can essentially do what’s in the bill now, has the president tried that?”

It’s the latest fight over spending and comes even as growing debt and near-record deficits have pushed Congress to consider cuts while the White House pushes for more stimulus spending.

This White House, like previous presidents, says Mr. Obama needs extra tools because Congress can too easily slip in bad spending projects.

Jeffrey Liebman, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said presidents are reluctant to veto bills over small projects tucked inside. He said the ability to highlight individual bad spending makes it easier to make cuts.

“A veto’s a very blunt tool. You often have legislation that needs to get passed soon, and you run up against the question of whether you veto a whole bill,” he told the committee.

He said the biggest effect will come in scaring lawmakers away from slipping bad spending into bills.

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