hopefully it will be much larger than the gnat-size that we passed
It is because the debt continues to grow that this hearing today
is so important. Clearly, we must make fundamental reforms in the
way that we do business here in the Congress, if we are going to
bring the deficit down. Enhanced rescission authority and the line-
item veto are certainly tools that can be used to cut spending and
reduce the deficit. I am proud to have voted for or cosponsored
much of the legislation that is going to be discussed today.
So I commend my colleagues testifying today who have led the
fight on this important issue, and look forward to hearing their in-
formed views on this matter.
I want to raise one other issue, and that is when this Adminis-
tration first sent its fiscal year 1995 budget up here and stated
that there was no problem in the funding of defense. Then in hear-
ings before this committee, the Administration admitted that there
was a $20.6 billion gap, but they said that this was only because
Next, the CBO reported that the $20.6 billion was not due to in-
flation, but, more importantly, the GAO issued a report stating
that there is actually a $150 billion gap between the President's
budget and the Pentagon's plans. In addition, I have recently re-
ceived an internal DOD report that supports the GAO findings.
Now the Department of Defense is admitting there may be a $40
billion gap, and the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff is quoted as
saying we think there is a problem, we are arguing about the size
of that problem.
So, Mr. Chairman, it is very difficult to get to the bottom of this
and, regardless of whether the problem is $20.6 billion, $40 billion
like Defense admits, or $150 billion that GAO says is there, this
is no way to run the Pentagon. This has serious budgetary implica-
tions. These budget games hurt troop readiness, and harm our na-
tional security, undermine efforts to control spending.
I know that you, Mr. Chairman, and I hoped to have a hearing
on this important issue this year. Unfortunately, calendars get full
quickly around here. So I hope, Mr. Chairman, that the Budget
Committee can meet early next year to give this issue of the short-
fall between plans and what we budget for the Pentagon the full
and complete attention that it deserves.
Chairman Sasser. Thank you. I want to assure the Senator from
Iowa that I would like very much to do that next year. I think that
would be a very important undertaking, and we should do it.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR EXON
Senator ExoN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to make an opening statement that is not too
lengthy, but to try and put in perspective what this one Senator
sees. Like many other members of the committee, I want to thank
you very much, Mr. Chairman, for conducting this hearing on legis-
lative line-item veto proposals such as enhanced and expedited re-
I must admit, however, that I have been disappointed that we
have not made more progress than we have on this important mat-
ter. I think the record is clear that I have long supported the con-
cept of providing some form of line-item veto to our President, and
I can assure my fellow supporters that I still do. My support for
such a power dates back to my days as Governor of the State of
Nebraska, where I used the line-item veto with great success in
trying to keep our State's budget under control.
I can assure you that the members of the Nebraska Legislature
were often very unhappy with my actions. Yet, the fact remains
that the line-item veto was a very useful tool to partially attempt
to keeping the State of Nebraska's budget under control. It was not
a cure-all, but it was a great aid.
I would hasten to agree that I understand that there are some
differences between the Federal and the State governments. I also
understand that the problem at all levels of government is more
spending demands than receipts tend to cover.
Since my arrival in the Senate, I have repeatedly supported ef-
forts to provide our President with line-item veto powers. Many
years ago, I worked with then Senator Dan Quayle in offering a
"pork buster" amendment to our budget reconciliation bill. In 1992,
I submitted an amendment to give our President the legislative
line-item veto. I have cosponsored legislation on this issue and
have introduced my own proposals that the Chairman has alluded
I know that there are quite a few ways, and probably pros and
cons on all of them, to design the legislative line-item veto, and we
are going to hear a number of Senators regarding their own propos-
als today. Just let me say that I stand ready to support any respon-
sible proposal on this issue, as I think it is past time that we give
our President this power.
In my view, however, the critical issue from the view of how to
move forward on this issue is to develop a compromise â€” I empha-
size the word "compromise," hopefully a bipartisan compromise â€”
between those who want to do nothing and those who want to, in
effect, give a veto power over each item to be rescinded. The critical
difference in this regard is whether it takes a majority of the mem-
bers of the Congress to override the presidential rescission, or
whether it takes a two-thirds super majority to do so.
That is why I introduced my own proposal on this issue, S. 224,
at the beginning of this session of Congress, and why I have ex-
pressed my support for the version of the line-item veto as passed
by the House of Representatives. Both set out a plan that is de-
pendent upon a majority vote in Congress, an idea that dates back
at least in part to the Exon-Quayle "pork barrel" busing amend-
ment in 1986, and likely even probably further beyond that.
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that the facts are that we are far
short of the 60 votes that would be needed to break a filibuster on
any issue in this area, and by working out compromises on some
of these issues, we can perhaps put together a measure that will
succeed. We obviously are not at this point yet, but I remain hope-
ful that we can continue to get support for this important concept.
I know that the opponents of the legislative line-item veto like
to point out that we really will not save all that much with a pro-
posal, and frankly that is indeed the big picture. The line-item veto
will impact only a portion of our budget, and savings on the line-
item veto will not make a major dent, in my opinion, in our deficit,
which continues to be much too large.
On the other hand, we are not going to solve our budget prob-
lems with a single bill. Our $4.5 trillion debt was not built up over-
night and will not be resolved overnight. Instead, we have to accept
the fact that balancing our budget will not be easy, nor will it be
accomplished quickly. If there is one problem that I have with all
of this talk about balancing the budget, it is that we continue to
look for a silver bullet, if you will, something that we can do dra-
matically and very quickly to solve the problem.
I think rational people who understand the budget process and
the problems of it should stand back and take a look at this and
say we are going to have to do this in an incremental fashion, if
we are going to do it at all. We need to use all of the tools that
are currently available to us, and some more that I hope we can
Last year's budget reduction efforts were certainly a major step
in the right direction, in the opinion of this Senator. But my opin-
ion, as usual, is not universally accepted. Its opponents, including
every minority member of this important Budget Committee, cor-
rectly pointed out that the deficit reduction bill did not solve our
Federal budgetary problem. I agree. Yet, I viewed that as a feeble
excuse to oppose that effort, and I view such an argument as a fee-
ble excuse not to back a legislative line-item veto which cannot pos-
sibly solve our budgetary problems, yet it also is another step in
the right direction in the long process that I think we are going to
have to saddle up to, if we want to pull the wagon down that way
on a bipartisan basis.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for holding this hearing, and
I would like to express my hope that the supporters of this concept
will enjoy more success in the coming session of Congress than we
have witnessed in the ones before and the one that is about to end.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Sasser. Thank you. Senator Exon.
Senator Gregg was next in order of attendance.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR GREGG
Senator Gregg. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to join in saying I think this is an important hear-
ing. Unfortunately, I think we have missed a great opportunity.
The House of Representatives passed an enhanced rescission bill in
July, and it has now taken us until 2 days before the end of the
session before we have had a chance to basically hold a hearing on
that bill, and obviously we are not going to have time to proceed
to markup and pass that bill.
That is time that was unfortunately not well spent on this issue,
in my opinion, because this is a critical issue, and I think Senator
Exon has put it in the right context. This is one of the building
blocks for getting our budget under control. It is, obviously, not the
entire medication that is needed for curing this illness, but it is
merely part of the restorative process of putting in place effective
budget control for our government.
The fact that we have not taken advantage of what the House
has done is a failure of the Senate as an institution. Clearly, there
are members of the Senate who do not agree with this approach.
At least, we should have had the House language on the floor, had
it debated and had an up-and-down vote on it before this session
is over, so that we could have sensed where the votes were and
whether there was an opportunity to take advantage of the opening
that the House has given us in this area.
However, I am sure this hearing will be useful in setting up for
next year, and I would hope that next year we will maybe beat the
House and pass our legislation before the House passes theirs, and
then we can actually put in place the type of legislation and start
the process of restoring our budget process of the institution.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Sasser. Thank you, Senator Gregg.
Senator DOMENICI. Mr. Chairman, first I apologize, I was about
7 or 8 minutes late. I think my staff knew I was coming, but I
probably should have sent word.
Chairman Sasser. I apologize to you, Senator Domenici. My re-
mark was not directed at you, and I want you to understand that.
It is just that this hearing, as you know, had been requested by
every member on the minority side, and it is rather discouraging
to be holding this hearing this late in the session and see that
those who requested the hearing have such little interest that they
do not appear. But my remark was certainly not directed at you,
and I want you to understand that.
Senator DOMENICI. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, let me tell you that I do have a few remarks and
a little bit of history, so, if you do not mind, I will take 5 or 6 min-
utes. When are our witnesses scheduled to be here?
Senator EXON. 11:00 o'clock, I believe.
Chairman Sasser. Yes.
Senator Domenici. I may talk for a half hour.
Senator ExoN. You have plenty of time, Senator Domenici.
Senator DOMENICI. You can recess for the rest of the
Chairman Sasser. We are going to be interrupted by a vote, I
am advised, at 10:45.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR DOMENICI
Senator DOMENICI. Anyhow, we are at the end of this Congress,
and I am not critical of anyone, but I think it is obviously a little
late to be holding a hearing on this subject. But the more I think
about it, the more I am convinced that there isn't the need for very
much of a hearing on this subject. What is needed at the earliest
practical time is for this committee to hold a markup and report
out a bill. While there is no time in the next 24 or 48 or 36 hours
to do that, I am convinced that is the next step.
Why do I say this? Simply stated, and unequivocally, its time has
come, and these are my reasons. First of all, all but two Presidents
in the 20th Century have expressed their support for item veto au-
thority of one kind or another. Most recently, candidate Bill Clin-
ton assumed savings of nearly $10 billion in his book. Putting Peo-
ple First, from the enactment of the line-item veto authority. Now,
that does not mean we would agree and hope that he would do
every one of those, but it shows its dimensions even in the mind
of this President that it could be worth $10 billion.
Then, as President Clinton endorsed enhanced rescission author-
ity in his first two budgets submitted to Congress, we have further
evidence that this President joins many others in thinking some-
thing is wrong in the balance of power. The Vice President's Na-
tional Performance Review recommended changes to the existing
Second, almost exactly 4 years ago, this committee reported Sen-
ator Hollings* original bill that would have amended the Congres-
sional Budget Act and created a line-item veto authority through
the separate enrollment of each item in an appropriations bill. The
bill was reported with 13 votes in favor and 6 in opposition from
this committee. It was then referred to the Governmental Affairs
Committee, Senator Exon, where it died. Normally, what has been
happening is if one committee approves, the other lets it die, and
that game goes on. Its time has come.
Third, during this Congress, the House has passed and sent to
the Senate not one, but two enhanced rescission bills. The first, en-
titled "Expedited Rescission Act of 1993," passed the House in April
1993. It was referred to this committee. It would amend the Con-
gressional Budget Act by requiring Congress to vote on the Presi-
dent's proposed rescissions or an alternative within 10-legislative
days of its submission to Congress.
Not satisfied that the Senate was taking seriously its action, the
House sent us another bill this year, last July, now entitled "Expe-
dited Rescission Act of 1994." This time, the House included a pro-
vision expanding the rescission authority by applying it to targeted
tax benefits in revenue bills. That bill, too, nas been referred to
Maybe we even have each House thinking that they can pass
something like this and send it to the other House, and that the
other House will not do anything. Although I know such is the case
in the Senate, I do not think I am prepared to say that is the case
in the House.
Fourth, in the Senate during this session, five Senate bills that
reform the rescission process have been introduced. Over 35 Sen-
ators are either sponsors or cosponsors if these bills.
Fifth, we also know that, as of today, 43 of the 50 State gov-
ernors have some form of reduction or item veto authority. Finally,
sixth, if we look back over our voting record since 1983, I conclude
that, out of the 287 votes cast by the current members of this com-
mittee on the floor relating to this subject matter, a close majority,
141, favored reforming the current rescission authority. Most of
these proposals failed, I should note, simply because they had not
been reported from this committee, therefore violating the Budget
Act and requiring 60 votes.
So, in a very real sense, because of the language in the Budget
Act, failure to mark something up here has precluded the passage
of enhanced rescission. For these reasons, I conclude tnat we
should be reporting out an expedited rescission bill, instead of hold-
ing any more hearings. The time has come and, if not in this par-
ticular Congress, I am confident that in the 104th that we will
adopt some measure to alter the rescission authority of the Presi-
dent. I hope the Budget Committee will call a markup early in the
next Congress to do this bill.
I have chosen my words carefully, "expedited rescission." This is
different from line-item veto authority envisioned in some propos-
als. It is sometimes said that Congress is granted the power of the
purse to offset the President's power of the sword. Today, in Haiti,
the President is exercising the power of the sword.
I am not ready to turn as much power of the purse over to the
President as, let us say. Senator McCain's proposal would. But I
think there is a need to recalibrate the scales and provide that the
executive has an opportunity to have its rescission proposals con-
sidered expeditiously, with a vote up and down on them. That is
what I mean by expedited rescission.
So I support reforming the rescission process. I think when we
do it, it should be clean, clear and unambiguous, so we do not have
another opportunity to muddle along and confuse people as to what
we really meant or did not mean by enhanced rescission.
I remain realistic in all respects about the impact of these kinds
of measures on future Federal spending. I agree with Senator
Exon. While I support this wholeheartedly, this must be done, I do
not think anyone should think that it is going to be a major tool
for getting our deficit under control. There is no question that enti-
tlements remain the problem and, until we are willing to address
them, we just will not get that $400 billion deficit that somebody
alluded to under control.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator ExoN. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Sasser. Senator Exon.
Senator ExoN. May I briefly respond. I thank my friends on the
other side of the aisle who have spoken on this matter. I think that
Senator Domenici put his finger on it as to the only way I think
we can get this done.
I have been generally supporting all of the enhanced rescission
line-item veto proposals, anything that we can get through. I sus-
pect, though, from the standpoint of reality as to what we can and
cannot do, and to continue to exercise in futility the enhanced re-
scission process as just alluded to by Senator Domenici and others.
It seems to me it is the vehicle possibly for compromise. Cer-
tainly, Senator Byrd will be here this afternoon, and we all know
how our dear friend and colleague Senator Byrd feels about this.
Not only has he been the prime leader against doing anything like
this for a long, long time, but I have listened to his arguments, and
certainly he makes a lot of good sense on some of these things.
Therefore, it seems like, from the standpoint of reality, we prob-
ably are going to have to come up with some kind of enhanced re-
scission, as opposed to a line-item veto. A line-item veto per se
probably is something that we will never get compromise on, and
maybe we can on some form of enhanced rescission.
Chairman Sasser. Thank you, Senator Exon.
We will not begin hearing witnesses until 11:00 o'clock. We have
a vote scheduled on the floor at 10:45. So I will declare the commit-
tee in recess until 11:00 o'clock, when we will take up the testi-
mony of Senator Bradley.
Senator DOMENICI. Mr. Chairman, we request that Senator Gor-
ton's statement be placed in the record.
Chairman Sasser. Senator Gorton's statement will appear in the
record as if read.
Senator DOMENICI. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Senator Gorton follows:]
Pkkpakk!) Statkment ok Sknatoh Gorton
Mr. Chairman. I am glad to see the Budget Committee holding these hearings.
I am disappointed, however, that this committee took so long to do so.
It is true that through the imposition of the higher taxes in the Clinton budget.
Congress achieved a short term improvement in the budget deficit, at a long term
cost in economic growth. The budget deficit remains a big problem for us and for
future generations. Clearly, our long term budget problems require a serious inves-
tigation of budget and spending reforms like those embodied in many of the propos-
als before the committee today.
As I review the proposed reforms I am saddened by the recognition that we are
required to propose reforms that are only common sense to anyone outside of the
beltway. I think if you naked any man or woman on the street of any town in this
country he or she would apree with the thrust of these proposals. These Americans,
I believe, would be horrified to hear that we need to change the law to require Con-
gress to compare this year's spending to last year's spending level. I do not think
Americans would understand the practice of inflating budget estimates for agencies
and programs only to reduce spending on these agencies and programs so we can
call ourselves "budget cutters". Americans would rightly argue that we should com-
pare our budget fighting efforts not with some inflated baseline but with what the
country spent in the previous year. It is iust common sense, Mr. Chairman.
These same men and women would also be shocked to know that when Congress
votes with much fanfare to cut a program, the money is usually spent elsewhere.
Mr. Chairman, this country is running a $200 billion deficit this year. Through Sep-
tember 1994, this country has accumulated a $4.67 trillion debt. I believe the Amer-
ican people would agree that our continuing budget deficit and huge debt require
that a cut in spending is a cut in spending, not a license to spend for a different
bureaucracy. Outside the Beltway this kind of policy just makes sense, Mr. Chair-
I doubt Americans would understand that current law requires the President to
spend every cent appropriated by Congress, no matter how ridiculous or frivolous
the expenditure. All too oflen. Congress insists on turning simple Presidential re-
scission requests into political footballs. Neither can I imagine that most Americans
are aware of how abused is the "emergency" legislation process. Americans are a
generous and caring people. Congress too often takes significant liberties with this
emergency designation of legislation intended to help people in need. With our budg-
et deficit, common sense would dictate that emergency spending authority is only
used for true emergencies.
Of course, each of these proposals is embodied in Senator Craig's Common Cents
Budget Reform legislation of which I am proud to be an original cosponsor. I believe
that this kind of reform is essential to return some common sense to the budget and
spending procedures in Congress.
To those who say that these proposals are not feasible I would respond, what is
your alternative? As far as I can tell your alternative is to do nothing. This criticism
implies that nothing but current policy is possible. These policies will result in $300
and $400 billion deficits by the turn of the century. Clearly the current policies and
rrocedures are not going to improve the budget deficit picture. As a consequence,
hope that this hearing is only the first step, long overdue, toward reforming the
budget and spending process m the Congress. We must move forward to reform
these policies. The status quo will not do.
Chairman Sasser. We will now stand in recess until 11:00
Senator EXON [presiding]. The committee will please come to
The committee is very pleased, although we are running 20 min-
utes late, to welcome our distinguished colleague from New Jersey,
Senator Bradley, please proceed in any fashion you see fit.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. BILL BRADLEY, U.S. SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Senator Bradley. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Because
we are 20 minutes late, does that mean I have to speak a little bit
fast, so we can get this testimony much quicker?
Senator ExoN. Without objection, your full statement will be in-
cluded in the record.
Senator Bradley. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, by approving the $500 billion deficit reduction
package in August of 1993, this Congress chose a better future for
our children and our Nation. However, that package was simply
the first step in a long process. With annual budget deficits in ex-
cess of $200 billion and growing, we cannot simply go back to busi-
ness as usual.
Instead, we have to continue to prioritize spending and eliminate
programs that no longer work. We have to question our data as-
sumptions and make government serve the broad interests of all
citizens, not iust the narrow interests of those who make their
voices heard here in Washington. If we do not make this commit-
ment, the annual deficit will flow back up and voters will quite nat-