Obama's line-item veto gambit is a reach for more power
But now Barack Obama is trying to bring it back to life, presumably with more finely drawn legislation that would pass constitutional muster, especially a court that is becoming more beholden to Obama as he populates its seats. Will sees this quest for the line-item veto as a charade: an appearance of frugality while the reality is that it is a feint that Obama is using to project an image of flintiness as he expands the Brobdingnagian budget.
There is another way to view it.
The president is a bully (as I have written before ) who is constantly looking for ways not to save money but to grab power. He bullied members of Congress to support ObamaCare ("don't think we aren't keeping score, brother" he taunted one skeptical Democratic Congressmen as he browbeat him into voting the Obama way); bullies Chrysler's creditors as he jammed a deal down their throats that stripped them of their rights under the bankruptcy code; jammed Obamacare down our throats despite overwhelming public opposition; and on and on.
Now how does the line-item veto give him more power to bully Congressmen?
The kernel of the idea shows up in Will's column in passing. Obama's imperial power to pick and choose to fund various projects (i.e., earmarks) gives him leverage over how a Congressman votes.
And presidents could decline to veto particular spending projects in exchange for the sponsoring legislators' support on other matters. When Congress gave Clinton the line-item veto in 1996, the year of welfare reform, Vice President Al Gore said Clinton would use the promise of not vetoing pet projects to leverage higher welfare spending.
So Barack ("don't think we aren't keeping score, brother") Obama can hold the threat of killing project as an item to trade when it comes to exerting his will over the votes of Congressmen. If bribes don't work (think Joe Sestak; think Colorado's Andrew Romanoff) then threats can. This is the Obama Way and is on display once again.
The line-item veto would be one more tool in Obama's arsenal of tactics to bully his way through America. The veto would be added to tactics such as Presidential signing statements (that allow Obama to hold forth on how he interprets legislation -- a tactic that earned him disopprobrium from Democratic legislators and has been declared unconstitutional by the American Bar Association (It allows him to bypass specific provisions of Congressional legislation).
The excessive use of executive orders to further the Obama agenda allows bureaucracies to expand their reach in ways not intended, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's reading of the Clean Air Act in a way that gives it power to regulate carbon dioxide - an action that has aroused Congressional ire.
And the list of bullying tactics is ever-expanding.