President George W. Bush will soon make a formal request to Congress for a line-item veto — authority that would give him power to cancel specific spending items in budget bills, an administration official said on Sunday.
Many presidents have sought such authority on the argument it would help cut down on wasteful spending in the budget. In a rare yielding of some of its powers of the purse strings, Congress passed legislation granting a line-item veto to President Bill Clinton.
The Supreme Court struck down the law in 1998, ruling by a vote of 6-3 that Congress did not have the authority under the Constitution to give the president that power.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not wish to be seen as pre-empting the president’s announcement, said that Bush would transmit to Congress a proposal with language aimed at withstanding a Supreme Court challenge.
Bush plans to announce his intention to draw up a proposal on the line-item veto on Monday morning during a ceremony to swear in the new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Edward Lazear, the official said.
Bush, who has never vetoed a spending bill, has been criticized by many conservatives for the surge in federal expenditures on his watch. Republicans worry the record deficits could hurt them in this year’s midterm elections in which Democrats are seeking to regain control of one or both houses of Congress.
The Bush administration has forecast a fiscal 2007 budget deficit of $439 billion, an all-time high.
The lobbying scandal involving Jack Abramoff and the conviction of former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham on bribery charges have put a spotlight on budget earmarks — targeted spending items often added to unrelated spending bills.
Bush called in his State of the Union address for a line-item veto but did not offer specifics. He has also said he wants to see Congress put limits on earmarks.