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Public Papers - 1990 - April

Remarks Announcing Federal Budget Reform Proposals


The President. Let me welcome Senators Thurmond -- I thought Pete Domenici was going to be here -- certainly Dan Coats; and Tom Tauke, Lynn Martin; Representatives Craig, Penny; and of course, Secretary Brady and the Attorney General and Director Darman, General Counsel Boyden Gray.

Today I'm signing letters to send to Congress a budget reform package that would propose an amendment to the Constitution to provide a line-item veto; reiterate my previous support for the Legislative Line-Item Veto Act to enhance Presidential rescission authority; and finally, to reendorse a balanced budget amendment.

As President, I repeat the call of many of my predecessors for the line-item veto, and today I am proposing an amendment to the Constitution to accomplish this. The President needs the power to remove unnecessary expenditures that have been made a part of the appropriations bills without sacrificing entire legislative enactments. This power would give the President the same tool that 43 Governors have: the line-item veto.

I also want to repeat my strong endorsement of August 4th of last year for the Legislative Line-Item Veto Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Coats and by John McCain. I'm glad you're here, Dan; but John, I think, is in Nicaragua for the inauguration. Otherwise, he would be here as well. The House sponsors are here: Tom Tauke, Lynn Martin, Larry Craig, and Tim Penny -- all out front on this issue.

The Legislative Line-Item Veto Act strengthens the rescission authority in current law. Now an appropriation can only be canceled through rescission, but Congress can reject a Presidential rescission simply by inaction. And that's precisely what's happened to the vast majority of rescission proposals since the present law went into effect in 1974. And so, I ask Congress to require an up-or-down vote on Presidential rescissions. The President needs the power to make the tough calls on spending, take the heat, and I'm perfectly prepared to do that.

The third and final element of this budget reform package is a balanced budget amendment. A balanced budget amendment, properly drafted, is both necessary and appropriate to protect the interests of a group of citizens not now able to protect themselves; and I'm talking about the citizens of future generations. Senate Joint Resolution 12, introduced by Senator Thurmond, is one such balanced budget amendment, and today I am pleased to endorse that Thurmond resolution. More than 30 State legislatures have already called for a constitutional convention for this purpose.

These three tools -- a line-item veto constitutional amendment, enhanced rescission authority for the President, and a balanced budget amendment -- together with political courage and discipline are vital to solving the problems of budget deficits.

So, I am prepared -- I will tell all of you here -- to work with Congress to enact a meaningful, credible, and effective budget reform process. Getting our fiscal house in order is crucial to our nation's long-term economic health and prosperity.

Thank you all for your leadership, and I look forward to working with you for success here.

[At this point, the President signed the letters.]

The President. So, there we are. Keep up the good work.

Lithuanian Independence

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Landsbergis [Lithuanian leader] has likened your policies to Munich. Would you care to defend yourself?

The President. I don't need any defense. The policy decisions I've taken have strong support from the American people. That's who I work for.

Note: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Senators Pete V. Domenici and Dan Coats, and to C. Boyden Gray, Counsel to the President.

The Office of the Press Secretary issued a fact sheet on the same day which provided the following additional information on the President's budget reform proposals:

Line-item veto amendment: The amendment would give the President authority to separately approve, reduce, or disapprove any provision of a bill containing any `item of spending authority.' `Items of spending authority' have been broadly defined, to capture the whole range of Federal spending. They include: items of appropriation, spending authorizations, authority to borrow money on the credit of the United States or otherwise, dedications of revenues, entitlements, uses of assets, insurance, guarantees of borrowing, and any authority to incur obligations. The basic veto mechanism currently in the Constitution has been retained in the amendment. When the President exercises the item veto, he will signify in writing the portions approved or approved as reduced, which will then become law, and return disapproved portions and reductions to Congress, which will reconsider each of them just as it now does with vetoed bills.

Balanced budget amendment: The proposed amendment would require that outlays not exceed receipts, thus allowing the budget to be balanced or to run a surplus. The proposal also includes a safeguard against a resort to higher taxes as a means of complying with the constitutional mandate. The President called for a change in Senate Joint Resolution 12: that the mandate for a balanced budget be effective beginning with fiscal year 1993 -- the year in which the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law requires elimination of the deficit.

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