Kerry Depending on Line Item Veto to Cut Deficit?

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - The Kerry-Edwards campaign wants Americans to know that if Sen. John F. Kerry is elected president, will solve many of the problems that (they say) President Bush has created, ignored, or made worse.

Among other things, Kerry promises to halve the deficit in four years and preserve Social Security.

But a key element of Kerry's deficit-reduction plan involves a power the president does not have - because the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

In a "fact sheet on Fiscal Responsibility and Social Security" released Tuesday, the Kerry campaign said that as president, Kerry will "submit budgets to Congress in which every new proposal is paid for -- and cut the deficit in half within four years. He will ask Congress to pass a line-item veto and use the power to veto any pork barrel spending that is added to the budget."

According to the Thomas database, which makes federal legislative information available on the Internet, Bill Clinton was the first president allowed to veto specific spending or tax provisions under a line-item veto law that took effect in January 1997.

But the U.S. Constitution allows presidents to veto entire bills only -- not just the portions they don't like -- and in June 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the line item veto law, declaring it unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court, in its 6-3 decision, said a constitutional amendment would be needed to grant the president line-item veto power.

The Kerry campaign on Tuesday said the senator also "will call for automatic, across-the-board spending cuts if necessary and eliminate unnecessary corporate welfare, using the savings to reduce the deficit."

Saving Social Security

The Kerry campaign "fact sheet" says that Kerry, as president, will "strengthen" Social Security: "His plan will not raise the retirement age, cut benefits for people that rely on them, raise taxes on the middle class or privatize the program."

The release quotes Kerry as saying, "I believe that we can protect Social Security for our seniors, lift up middle-class families and keep America's promise to our children and our grandchildren. And when I'm president, that's exactly what we'll do."

The fact sheet suggests that Kerry would shore up Social Security by stopping President Bush's "tax giveaways for millionaires."

Many experts, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, have warned that the Social Security program is in trouble.

In February, Greenspan proposed cutting future retirement benefits and raising the retirement age to alleviate budget deficits that will "worsen dramatically" when the baby boomers begin retiring in 2008 - leaving fewer workers to pay into the system.

A taxpayer watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste, has predicted that Social Security and Medicare will consume 40 percent of taxable wages by 2030 unless lawmakers do something about it.

President Bush has promised to examine ways of shoring up Social Security in his second term.

For starters, he has proposed letting younger workers invest part of their Social Security payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts that they would own and manage, within certain guidelines.

The Bush campaign says "privatization" is a word used to scare seniors into thinking that the system as they know it will change -- when it will not change for them at all.

In a recent press interview, President Bush said he started the process of fixing Social Security in 2001, when he set up a commission to investigate the possibilities.

"The next step is to take that commission report, bring people together, and say this is a problem for our children," Bush told the Associated Press in a recent interview.

Critics point to "transition costs" -- the money drained out of system, into personal retirement accounts -- as an insurmountable barrier to Bush's proposal.

See Earlier Stories:
Taxpayer Group Sees Fix for Social Security 'Time Bomb' (1 Mar. 2004)
Democrat Mulling Support for Social Security Reform Plan (16 Sept. 2003)
Democrat Loves Concept, Not Cost of SS Reform Bill (18 Sept. 2003)
Dem Leaders Use Social Security Plot to Undermine GOP (10 Oct. 2002)

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