June 27, 2006

Bush presses Congress for expanded veto power

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush prodded the
Senate on Tuesday to pass a bill that would bolster his power
to propose the rejection of spending items he considers

Bush, who has presided over a surge in budget deficits
following the surpluses of the Clinton administration, said
that by granting him a line-item veto, Congress would be taking
a big step toward improving the nation's fiscal health.

"A line-item veto would be a vital tool that a president
could use to target spending that lawmakers tack onto the large
spending bills," Bush said in a speech to the Manhattan
Institute, a conservative think tank.

The House of Representatives last week approved the
line-item veto bill by a strong margin but it faces an
uncertain outlook in the Senate.

The language is a modified version of a 1990s measure that
gave the president authority to cancel outright certain items
in spending bills. The U.S. Supreme Court struck it down as

The revised proposal would allow Bush to single out
spending items he thinks should be deleted and then send the
proposals back to lawmakers for a vote.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, a New
Hampshire Republican, said Senate leaders had not told him
whether the line-item veto bill would reach the Senate floor
this summer. His committee, over Democrats' objections, has
approved a line-item veto proposal and coupled it other changes
in budget process.

So-called budget earmarks -- money set aside by lawmakers
for specific projects -- have been a focus of controversy this
year amid scandals involving lobbyists who have won
special-interests favors in spending bills.

Some Democrats have criticized Bush's call for a line-item
veto, pointing out that he has never vetoed a bill.

Democrats Bush's tax cuts for the surge in red ink. Many
conservative Republicans are upset over the spending run-up on
Bush's watch.

The U.S. government had a $128 billion budget surplus in
2001, according to the Congressional Budget Office. CBO
projects a deficit of around $300 billion in fiscal 2006
compared to a shortfall of $318 billion in 2005.