(Washington, DC) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) released the following statement on a proposal to enact a line item veto.
"This misguided proposal will hurt the communities we are here to represent. It will strip them of the voice they have today in Congress through each of us, and it will hand even more legislative power to the Executive Branch.
As I saw in my own experiences, both here in the U.S. Senate and in the Washington state legislature, a line item veto is subject to abuse, pressure and horse-trading, and it violates the delicate balance of power that the Founders so carefully designed.
Now I recognize that the idea sounds attractive. It suggests that we could cut spending and control the deficit without having to make any tough choices. Well like a lot of ideas that sound good at first, once you look into it, the painful impact becomes clear.
More importantly, I think all of us need to do the hard work of crafting responsible budgets. We need to legislate and govern and take the needs of the country and our states into consideration. We need to make the tough decisions – not pass the buck to the White House.
I oppose the line item veto today for the same reasons I opposed it in the 1990's. I voted against this gimmick when Congress handed that power to a Democratic president. And today I fight another attempt to hand that same power to a Republican president.
For me, it's not about the party of the chief executive; it's about making sure that the constituents I represent have a voice in the budget decisions that affect their lives. The line item veto is the wrong approach for three reasons.
The Line Item Veto Would Transfer Power to the Executive
First, it would cede a tremendous amount of power from Congress to the Executive Branch. The Constitution is very clear that Congress has the power of the purse. The framers of our Constitution carefully divided the powers of our government between the three branches.
When Congress tried this before, it was ruled unconstitutional. This time around, the sponsors have tweaked the bill to try and address those concerns, but the underlying problem still remains. We should not be handing our legislative power over to the Executive branch. I made that argument in 1995 – and it's even truer today. We've seen the Bush Administration aggressively try to expand presidential power and limit Congressional input and oversight. We should stand our ground as the Founders intended – not surrender our Constitutional authority to the Executive branch.
The Line Item Veto Would Hurt Our Constituents
Second, the line item veto would hurt the constituents we represent. They rely on us to fight for their needs and priorities. Through the budget and appropriations process, we work to meet the needs in our local communities – needs that the Administration would ignore. If we give up our ability to fight for our communities, our constituents will lose their voice. Because I can tell you, the communities we represent will not get fair consideration from a budget official sitting in Washington, D.C.
Last week, a group of constituents came to see me about a local road that needs to be improved. The changes they're seeking will improve safety, support economic development, and provide access to critically-needed housing. I represent that community, so I know first-hand those improvements are needed. That community has me fighting for them and pushing for their needs. The Administration is not going to do that. They're not going to send someone from Washington, D.C. to check out the road and see that it's unsafe. In fact, these constituents had just come from a meeting with an Administration official who basically told them that, in regard to the continuing resolution, "Good luck, we'll be making the decisions this year."
That's just wrong. If we hand this power to the Administration, we will surrender our voices, and our constituents will lose their voices in advocating for their communities. The families I represent know that if they have a problem, they can come and talk to me. But if you tell them that they have to track down someone at OMB and convince them to care about their local needs, our communities will suffer.
I came to the United States Senate to represent the people of my home State of Washington. They elected me to be their voice on a wide array of issues affecting everything from their safety to their health, education, and economic well-being. I am not going to transfer my ability to fight for the people of Washington State to this or any other President. That's what this bill proposal would do, and I strongly oppose it.
The Line Item Veto Is Subject to Abuse and Unfair Application
Third, experience has shown that the line item veto is subject to abuse and may be applied unfairly by an administration. I have experience with line-item veto authority. I served in my state legislature and saw first-hand the kind of horse-trading that can occur when the Executive has this power.
When President Clinton exercised the line item veto in 1997, we saw serious problems in the way it was applied. The White House put forward standards for deciding which projects would be targeted. But then it attacked projects that actually met the standards. In 1997, I stood here on the Senate floor and detailed the mistakes the Clinton Administration made in unfairly targeting projects for elimination. I don't want to see a repeat of those mistakes.
The Right Way to Handle Spending
Crafting a responsible budget takes hard work. It requires tough choices. There is no gimmick or trick that will make the hard decisions go away. Handing our power and our constituents' power over to the White House certainly won't do it. So I say, rather than spending our time on a distraction, let's work on a real budget and on the real and difficult choices that are before us. Let's do the job that voters sent us here to do – without gimmicks and without trampling the Constitution.