Published: May 24, 2010 11:43 AM EDT
Updated: May 24, 2010 11:43 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Monday is sending

legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to

vote on cutting earmarks and wasteful programs from spending bills.

The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability

to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have

already been signed into law for pork barrel projects and other

dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending

cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject


Senate Democrats filibustered the idea to death just three years

ago, and so Obama's move would seem like a long shot. But the plan

could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political

environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they

are tough on spending.

The White House move also comes as Obama's Democratic allies in

Congress are trying to pass a tax and spending bill providing $170

billion for programs such as unemployment benefits, aid to state

governments, and help for doctors facing a big cut in Medicare

reimbursements. The Senate is also taking up an almost $60 billion

war funding bill, and a vote looms on an administration-backed plan

to add $23 billion to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs.

Under the Constitution, the president has to either sign a bill

- forcing him to take the bad along with the good - or veto it,

which can be impractical. That allows Congress to pad spending

legislation with items a president does not like.

The White House says Obama would use the new power to try to

weed out earmarks such as water and sewer grants and road projects

not requested by the administration.

The new authority is far weaker than the line-item veto power a

GOP-dominated Congress gave President Clinton in 1996. Under that

bill, before it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1998,

Clinton's line-item vetoes automatically went into effect unless

overturned by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.

When Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., tried in 2007 to force a vote on

the weaker version, he won only 49 votes, far short of the 60

needed to break a filibuster led by Democrats such as Robert Byrd,

D-W.Va., who assailed it as an attack on Congress' power of the


All but a handful of state governors have the line-item veto,

which allows then to kill individual items in spending bills unless

they are overridden by state legislatures.

When Clinton used the line-item veto, he applied a light touch.

Even so, Congress recoiled and overrode many of his vetoes.

There is already a process under which Obama can ask Congress to

cut wasteful programs, but lawmakers are free to ignore the

request. Republicans have urged Obama to send the

Democratic-controlled Congress a package of such rescissions, but

he has opted not to do so.

The new spending cut proposal would apply to the $1

trillion-plus in Cabinet agency budgets passed by Congress each

year. Programs like farm subsidies and Medicare wouldn't be

threatened; neither would special interest tax breaks.