The NYT reports this morning that Barack Obama, like many presidents before him, is now seeking line-item veto authority.
President Obama, in his latest effort to signal fiscal responsibility against the rising debt, plans this month to ask Congress to give him and future presidents greater power to try to delete individual items from spending bills.
In doing so, Mr. Obama will join a long line of his predecessors who have sought either line-item veto power or, after the Supreme Court in 1998 ruled such a veto unconstitutional, some other rescission authority that passes muster. Congress once again is unlikely to be receptive, though growing antidebt sentiment could give the proposal life.
Of course cynics like me would say “Now why would someone who has racked up a trillion or two in debt be suddenly interested in vetoing spending items from his own party?” The answer, I believe, is: “he isn’t.” The more likely scenario is that Obama is preparing for an increasingly-likely GOP takeover of the House and Senate, and (more importantly) he may be positioning to fight Republican efforts to repeal the now-passed healthcare “reform” legislation.
Since Obama is certain to veto any legislation to repeal HCR, the only real way for Republicans to push through a rollback would be to attach repeal measures to spending bills that Obama would not be likely to veto in total. A line-item veto would provide the means to cut those items while leaving spending intact. Now if a GOP-controlled Congress simply fails to fund HCR items, this obviously is irrelevant, since he could not veto what does not exist. But if the Republicans used other means to repeal, the line-item veto could provide Obama the ability to eliminate them.
Based on past history, the President is unlikely to succeed. But this could be the early warning sign that the Democrats are preparing for the inevitable battle royal on healthcare repeal.