- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010


It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a campaign promise that the president has kept. As Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination in August 2008, he boldly asserted his intention to “go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.” In his remarks before his bipartisan debt commission last week, Mr. Obama reiterated his commitment to fiscal responsibility by claiming that everything was “on the table” to address the sea of red ink that has now swelled to $12.9 trillion.

If the president truly means what he says, there’s something he can do right now to address the runaway spending that is hampering current and future economic growth. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia wrote to the president in February to suggest an elegant and simple way to save money. Mr. Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget recommended the elimination of 47 discretionary programs and a reduction in spending for 26 others, for a net savings of $10.3 billion. While this may be a paltry amount in comparison to the total debt, it is at least a start - but the savings would not begin until Oct. 1. The Republican leaders simply said that we could take those savings right now by using the president’s rescission authority.

Since 1974, every commander in chief has had the power to temporarily freeze expenditures on unnecessary and wasteful budget items. In a show of bipartisanship, the Republican leaders offered to round up the 88 co-sponsors required to call a congressional vote on making each of Mr. Obama’s recommended cuts permanent. While past presidents have used rescissions to trim a total of $76 billion from the budget, Mr. Obama has never exercised this authority. He also never responded to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor.

On Tuesday, the Republican leaders repeated their recommendation, including a list of $375 billion in proposed rescissions. “Respectfully, Mr. President, if you have determined that you will not use your presidential rescissions authority to force Congress to make spending reductions, the American people deserve to know why,” they wrote.

Empty promises and blue-ribbon panels aren’t going to put the nation’s fiscal house back into order. It’s time for the president to take his other campaign promise of bipartisanship seriously and work with the Republican leadership to come up with a rescission package that will address an out-of-control deficit.

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