- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

In the Jan. 3 Wall Street Journal, President Bush authored an op-ed titled, “What the Congress can do for America” in which he wrote, among other things, “It’s time Congress give the president a line-item veto.”

The 60 Plus Association agrees and on behalf of senior citizens across America, we urge the U.S. Senate to follow last year’s example of the U.S. House of Representatives and give the president line-item veto power.

Anytime this country can cut or restrain spending, we believe it is good for senior citizens. A vast number of this segment of American society are on fixed incomes, and are affected more by higher taxes and runaway spending.

Forty-three of 50 governors already enjoy the line-item veto. Only Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont do not. Historically, 11 presidents from both parties have enjoyed the line-item veto, going all the way back to Ulysses S. Grant. We believe the time to grant that authority once again is upon us.

President Bush has made the line-item veto a top priority each year of his presidency and as far back as June 1999, while governor of Texas, he advocated the line-item veto as a tool to restrain runaway spending. As governor and president, he has said repeatedly he believes in setting fiscal discipline with the people’s money.

The line-item veto would go a long way toward eliminating what are called “earmarks,” that is, spending slipped at the 11th hour into bills leaving little or no time to debate or amend their inclusion. With line-item veto authority, a president could x-out or “flag” that which he deems unnecessary or wasteful. The bill would then return to Congress for 10 days of review… and Congress could reinstate those recommended cuts with a simple majority vote. This represents fair play, and a constitutional reply to the Supreme Court’s call for congressional involvement, but more important, it would force legislators to think long and hard before adding earmarks that would ultimately run up against closer public review, the “pork” being seen for what it is — wasteful.

Thirty-five Democrats joined the vast majority of Republicans in the House for the 109th Congress to pass the line item veto in late June in a 247-172 vote. This is a bipartisan winner for the American taxpayer and now it’s the Senate’s call to answer and do the right thing, bringing much-needed discipline to the budget process. This will help keep our economy robust, vital and productive.

On behalf of nearly 5 million senior citizens, the majority of whom live on fixed incomes, this is long overdue legislation and we urge the U.S. Senate to pass the line-item veto. Allow the president to red-line objectionable spending without killing necessary programs.

James L. Martin is president of the 60 Plus Association in Arlington, Va.

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