Sen. Carper Introduces A Bipartisan Budget Enforcement Bill

Bill Would Establish Limited Line-Item Veto Authority

WASHINGTON – Faced with increasing budget deficits, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today introduced bipartisan legislation designed to help Congress and the president keep federal spending in check.

The Budget Enforcement Legislative Tool (BELT) Act of 2008 would give the President legislative line-item veto authority, or the ability to cut spending in the annual appropriations bills, without having to veto the entire bill. 

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

“At a time of yearly budget deficits, a $9.4 trillion and growing national debt—and with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation right around the corner—it’s time we get serious about fixing our country’s fiscal problems,” said Sen. Carper. “This legislation, by itself, won’t balance the budget, but it will help Washington to better live within its means.”

Under the line-item veto authority portion of the bill:
  • The president would have three days after signing spending legislation to submit a list of proposed cuts for Congress to consider. Within 10 days of submission, the Senate and the House would vote on the president’s list, which would NOT be amendable. A simple majority of both chambers would have to approve the list for it to become law.  
  • Authorized programs cannot be cut by more than 25 percent, but unauthorized programs can be zeroed out.
  • The president cannot propose to cut mandatory spending, such as Medicare or Social Security, or tax cuts. 

According the new legislation, line-item veto authority must be renewed after four years, giving Congress the ability to re-assess how the line-item veto is working and make any necessary improvements to the procedure.

“The vast majority of Americans live by two simple rules: Live within your means and pay as you go,” Sen. Carper said. “We in Congress used to live by those same balanced budget ideals, and when we did, we kept spending in check, made sure our tax cuts were responsible and we were on track to balance the budget. We need to do that again.”