Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Veto value

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

As an outspoken critic of our current administration in Washington, I read with skepticism President Bush's call for a line-item veto power, supposedly in an effort to control fiscal spending (which raises the question why Bush has not vetoed a single bill in his five-plus years in office, but I digress). The ability to eliminate individual provisions of a bill by the president would, in my eyes, concentrate even more power in an executive branch already wielding too much.

Perhaps even more ironically, Bush already has the power to eliminate 95 percent of all earmarks. Most earmarks are not actual parts of the legislation but are slipped in amid committee reports - which makes them not legally binding. At any time, Bush could simply signal federal agencies to defund pork projects.

Then I thought of the bright side. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has garnered $50 million in federal funding for a proposed environmental rain-forest project, originally slated for construction in Coralville. Grassley's pet project has stalled, because of negotiations between Coralville and the rain forest's backers over land issues. Other Iowa cities are being contacted on serving as possible alternative locations.

It's too bad the project hasn't died outright. The idea of constructing an environmental rain forest to attract tourists to Iowa is one of the most absurd ideas I've ever heard. Iowa spent only $3.4 million on tourism last year, with good reason: People don't visit Iowa for tourist attractions. (Here's a lighter look at the idea.)

It doesn't appear as if the rain forest is under severe threat, however. The line-item veto Bush is asking for was previously granted to President Clinton in 1996 by a Republican Congress. However, the Supreme Court declared the line-item veto unconstitutional in 1998, and both parties, loathe to see their pork projects under siege, have given little support to Bush's proposal. While the new bill differs slightly from the version that was stricken down in 1998, it is doubtful the court would uphold the measure.

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