Republicans consider rescission to undo the omnibus damage

  • 13 April 2018
  • NormanL
Republicans consider rescission to undo the omnibus damage

There's no escaping the fact that the omnibus spending bill Congress approved in March upset wide swaths of the GOP base. Perhaps sensing they could suffer at the polls in November unless they did something to show they weren't careless spendthrifts, some Republican House leaders are toying with the idea of reviving the rescission authority they have left on a shelf for decades.

What does it all mean? The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel explains:

It’s called the 1974 Impoundment Act, which allows the president to order the rescission of specific funds, so long as Congress approves those cuts within 45 days. The act hasn’t seen a lot of use in recent decades. Barack Obama never saw a spending bill he didn’t like, and George W. Bush never sent any formal rescission proposals to Congress—likely because he took the position that presidents ought to have a fuller line-item veto power. Many conservatives agree, though Ronald Reagan used rescission where he could and holds the title for most proposals. Even so, the total amount all presidents since 1974 have put forward for rescission ($76 billion) and the amount Congress ultimately approved ($25 billion) remains pathetic.

Republicans could change that. Their control of the White House and both chambers gives them an unusual opportunity to cut big. Under the Impoundment Act, a simple majority is enough to approve presidential rescissions—no filibuster. It’s a chance to take a hacksaw to the $128 billion by which the omnibus exceeded the 2011 domestic-spending caps—everything from carbon-capture technology to pecan producers to the Gateway Tunnel Project to the Environmental Protection Agency.

So it's not a line item veto, but it is somewhat similar. The trick is that it requires the President to ask Congress not to spend specific monies on specific programs. Difficult, but not impossible. And it might, possibly, allow self-styled fiscal conservatives in Congress to undo portions of the outrageous spending that found its way into the omnibus package.

This would require some offending of colleagues, and stepping on not a few special interest toes. But the GOP, which made fiscal restraint one of its central campaign themes during the tea party era, may have no other choice if it wants to regain some of the trust the omnibus threw away.