White House asks Congress for expedited authority to cut appropriations

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White House asks Congress for expedited authority to cut appropriations

This week the president proposed legislation, the “Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010,” that would make it easier to cut unrequested spending.  The legislation, if passed, would create a process, sometimes called “enhanced rescission authority,” to expedite cutting what the administration considers unnecessary or unwanted spending.  In a press statement announcing the proposal, President Obama said it “will provide a new tool to streamline Government programs and operations [and] cut wasteful Government spending.”  The new authority would apply to discretionary funding, not mandatory entitlement spending, such as for Social Security or Medicare.  Under the proposal, the president would have up to 45 days after enactment of an appropriations bill to send to Congress a list of spending items it wants to cut.  Congress would then have 25 days to either approve or disapprove the entire package.  If Congress did not act in time, the President could proceed with the cuts.  This differs from the current rescission rules, under which Congress must act to approve a rescission request to allow a proposed cut.  If Congress does not act, the money must be spent.  The president’s proposal has been tried before as an alternative to a line item veto, which was declared unconstitutional in 1998.  It has failed in the past primarily because Congress did not want to cede any more power over spending (so-called “power of the purse") to the president.  Some fiscal conservatives in Congress give the new proposal a chance of passing in the current economic and political environment.  However, a lukewarm reception from leading House and Senate Democrats and resistance from congressional appropriators make that chance a long shot.

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