In Wisconsin, congressional leaders have a long tradition of putting partisanship aside to solve problems. In recent years, I’ve upheld this tradition by teaming with Janesville native and former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold to advance legislation providing the president with a line-item veto to cut wasteful spending from the federal government’s bloated budget.
It’s a straightforward concept that has received bipartisan support, and I was encouraged to introduce it again earlier this week with Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democratic member on the House Budget Committee.
The fiscal and economic challenges facing our nation are immense. Our national debt recently surpassed $15 trillion. Massive spending increases—fueled by three years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion—have failed to reduce unemployment or create jobs. In addition to the alarming budget deficit and the painful jobs deficit, Washington’s failure to tackle these challenges has created a growing credibility deficit.
For years, policymakers from both political parties have failed to serve as responsible stewards of American families’ hard-earned tax dollars. Both parties have been part of the problem, and both will need to be part of the solution if we are going to give future generations a chance at prosperity. Leaders must deliver immediate and long-term solutions that create jobs and grow the economy, and those of us who serve in Congress must welcome any opportunity to advance common-sense solutions that get federal spending under control.
This effort, which I began with Sen. Feingold and am now continuing with Rep. Van Hollen, makes clear leaders can work together to address the problems that are adding to our debt.
The Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011 is a simple, effective way to eliminate unnecessary spending items. This legislation gives the president a precise tool to go after wasteful spending, while also protecting Congress’ constitutional authority to make spending decisions. It would allow the president to identify specific spending items in a bill that he believes should be cut and require Congress to take an up-or-down vote on them. If Congress fails to overturn the president’s veto, all of the proposed spending would be put toward reducing our deficit.
This legislation requires the federal government to be accountable for what it spends, adding much-needed oversight and transparency to the budget process. The line-item veto builds on other deficit-reduction efforts passed by the House of Representatives this year, such as a permanent ban on earmarks and real caps on spending. Taken together, these steps are changing the culture of wasteful spending that has dominated Washington for far too long.
The Expedited Line Item Veto and Rescissions Act is just one step toward restraining spending over the long term, but it’s a critical one. I’m grateful for Rep. Van Hollen’s willingness to advance it. The bill makes clear that there’s no shortage of bipartisan reforms Congress can approve to show a renewed commitment to getting our economy growing while bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, serves Wisconsin’s 1st District.