Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Senate Vote on Line-Item Veto Today (Update: Maybe)

So reports the Hill:

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) yesterday filed for cloture on an amendment giving the president line-item veto authority, setting up a likely vote today on whether to add the line-item bill to the Senate's minimum wage legislation.

Gregg and Republican leaders struck an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to hold a roll-call vote on the line-item plan late last week after a partisan standoff over the amendment nearly derailed the Senate's ethics reform bill. While the line-item agreement paved the way for overwhelming passage of the ethics bill, it faces long odds in the Senate as well as future conference negotiations with the House.

Of course, the legislation is not actually a 'line-item veto.' Rather, it's a 'legislative line item veto' or 'enhanced rescission.' It's the bill that Gregg and Jim DeMint have fought hard for.

Proving that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, the Associated Press offers a great piece noting that many Senate Democrats who backed this proposal when it was offered by Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, now oppose it when it is offered by Republicans:

Most adamant in opposition is Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who assaulted the idea last week and again Monday as an attack on Congress' control over the federal purse strings.

"Make no mistake, this line-item veto authority would grant tremendous — and dangerous — new power to the president," Byrd said. "He would have unchecked authority to imperil congressional power over the purse, a power that the constitutional framers felt was absolutely vital to reining in an overzealous president."

But in seeking to derail Gregg's bill, Byrd is effectively filibustering a version of the line-item veto that is similar to one he backed 12 years ago.

That measure, written by then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was offered as an alternative to a GOP version requiring a two-thirds vote to override presidential line-item vetoes. Thirty-seven Senate Democrats voted for the proposition, including 20 Democrats still serving. Among them: Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

Nineteen Democrats, including liberal stalwarts like Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, voted for the stronger GOP version; 11 are still in the Senate.

Daschle's plan, Byrd said at the time, "does not result in any shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive. It is clear cut. It gives the president the opportunity to get a vote."

Update: Key Senate staff indicates that the vote definitely could come today, but is more likely tomorrow. So play it safe and contact your Senators today.

And note that technically, the vote won't be on the amendment, but on 'cloture' - so Senators may claim that they're not voting against the amendment, but only on when and how to debate it. Don't fall for it. This vote may be the only one on this measure, so make it count.

Update: Andrew Roth covers this as well.

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