Democrats cautious on Obama's spending-cut proposal
By Shailagh Murray
Democrats in Congress are not exactly rushing to approve President Obama's request for more control over federal spending.
The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010, a twist on the line-item veto, would give Obama and future presidents greater leeway in seeking changes to appropriations bills. Under the proposal, unveiled Monday by the White House, presidents would send recommended cuts to Congress within a specific time frame after a spending bill is signed, and the House and the Senate would approve or reject the changes by an up-or-down vote.
Granting Obama's request could send a powerful message to skeptical voters that Democrats are serious about cutting the record-high deficit. But Congress takes its constitutional power of the purse very seriously. And so far, early reaction to the rescission proposal suggests that Obama could face quite a battle.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (S.C.), a longtime advocate of expanding presidential rescission powers, was among the few prominent Democrats to expressly endorse the Obama plan. Spratt announced Monday that he would introduce the White House proposal as a House bill.
But Obama may not get exactly what he wants, Spratt cautioned. "We will weigh the Administration's version of expedited rescission carefully, and see what changes we may want to make," he said in a statement. "In the meantime, today's proposal is welcomed as a step forward on the path to fiscal responsibility."
The House "Blue Dog" caucus of conservative Democrats offered its enthusiastic support. "The administration has taken a significant step," Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), a Blue Dog co-chair, said in a statement. "We have a responsibility to work together to see that this important legislation ultimately reaches the President's desk."
But House Democratic leaders took a wait-and-see approach.
"We look forward to reviewing the President's proposal and working together to do what's right for our nation's fiscal health and security, now and in the future," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), a former longtime member of the Appropriations Committee.
Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), who often allies with the Blue Dogs, was careful not to promise too much. "We are looking at all tools available to reduce the deficit, including expedited rescission, which could help cut down on unnecessary spending," said Hoyer, another Appropriations Committee veteran. "I look forward to working with the President and our members as we discuss this legislation."
Senate reaction was even more muted. Only a handful of Democrats had weighed in on Obama's proposal as of late Monday.
One of the few, Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), has offered his own rescissions bill, which closely resembles the White House language. In a statement, Feingold pledged "to advance this legislation and better safeguard taxpayer dollars."
Another advocate was freshman Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). "We need all the tools we can get our hands on to erase our debt and get our nation's fiscal house back in order," Udall said.
Washington Post Editor
May 24, 2010; 4:40 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama | Tags: obama spending bill; obama appropriations bill; obama spending cuts; obama recission; reduce unncessary spending bill; Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act
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