U.S. taxpayers deserve to have Congress justify how it spends their money. This is the simple idea behind giving the president a modified, constitutional version of the line-item veto.

Line-Item Veto Can Cut Pork

By Congressman Paul Ryan

U.S. taxpayers deserve to have Congress justify how it spends their money. This is the simple idea behind giving the president a modified, constitutional version of the line-item veto.

By shining the light of day on budgeting in Washington and holding members of Congress accountable for spending they insert into legislation, we can reduce wasteful pork-barrel spending.

To do this, we propose beefing up the president's existing authority to ask Congress to rescind wasteful spending items. Today, the president can make such a request, but Congress can just ignore it. During Ronald Reagan's presidency, for example, Congress failed to act on more than $25 billion in rescission requests by the administration.

Under our bipartisan legislation, the president can sign a spending bill but put a temporary hold on any wasteful provision and request that Congress rescind it. After two days, any member of Congress could introduce the rescission proposal and it would have to be voted on within 10 legislative days, guaranteeing fast-track consideration.

Unlike the line-item veto the Supreme Court struck down in 1998, this keeps the lawmaking power in Congress, where it belongs. For spending to be rescinded, it must pass both the House of Representatives and Senate by a simple majority, then be signed into law by the president. This upholds the process envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

We do not pretend that this step alone would balance the budget, but it would be an important component of a broader drive to restore fiscal discipline to Washington and rein in unnecessary pork-barrel spending.

If a member of Congress has included legitimate spending in a bill, it should be defensible on its merits, apart from the larger legislation to which it is attached. If a "bridge to nowhere" or other pork project can't be justified, then it deserves to be removed.

In any responsible business, employees who charge expenses to the company must be able to justify these expenditures. Members of Congress are the people's employees, and we should be held to the same standard.


Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a chief sponsor of the line-item veto legislation currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2006, edition of USA Today, and is being republished here with permission from Congressman Ryan's office.

March 23, 2006
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