The Corner

Rescission? Really? How Absurd!

Several reports are emerging that appropriations chairman Hal Rogers and others are floating the possibility of passing a clean omnibus appropriations bill now and then later “rescinding” the funds that could be used by Obama to implement his amnesty plans. This is sheer and utter nonsense. Balderdash. Tommyrot. And Rogers darn well knows it. Whereas withholding funds for a particular purpose in a larger approps bill at least in theory puts the onus on the president to decide whether it’s worth vetoing the whole bill in order to save the one part, rescissions do just the opposite — and they play entirely into the president’s hands.

In a rescission, Congress is trying to withdraw funds that already have been signed into law. All it takes to block the rescission is a presidential veto — which, it must be noted, is an easy call for him. Absent some pressing motive, his easy answer is to veto it in two seconds flat. After all, he would no longer be needing to choose between that program and all the others in the bill; instead, he would already have his program in hand — so why should he sign the bill taking away what he already has? 

It’s sheer lunacy.

What’s astonishing is that some members seen not to understand this basic, obvious, simple fact of lawmaking.

Indeed, it seems most of them haven’t even heard of rescissions. What’s really bizarre is that one of the ones who seemed at least temporarily bamboozled was Matt Salmon of Arizona:

“Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don’t need the president. That’s what he just told me. I’ve never heard that before,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a key conservative lawmaker who has emerged as a leader in crafting strategy on the issue.

How in tarnation can Salmon say he is unfamiliar with rescissions? He was in Congress in early 1995 when the famous Gingrich-led GOP majority successfully pushed through a $16+ billion rescissions package, after two months of painstaking, high-publicity efforts.  In fact, it was effectively the first major fight of Salmon’s congressional career. How can he not remember it?

But that package avoided a presidential veto because Bill Clinton was desperately trying to “get right” with the American people in order to earn reelection. In the wake of the election, he had famously declared that “the era of big government is over.” He had painted himself into a corner. He couldn’t dare veto the bill. On the other hand, Obama now faces no reelection; and the proposed rescission would focus solely, or almost solely, on one of his executive actions, not on big spending in general. Obama would sign that rescission about the same time that a Chik-fil-A cow would eat a hamburger while flying to Pluto on a hot-air balloon.

Look, people can have different opinions about the importance of using spending bills to fight Obama’s amnesty. But to suggest that the way to use spending bills is to allow spending for it now and then rescind it later can only be described as a deliberate deception.

There’s no excuse for a single Member to fall for it. It’s basic American civics: No act of Congress can become law unless the president allows it, unless two-thirds of both houses override the president’s veto. Jeesh. Words fail.

Quin Hillyer — In addition to National Review, Quin Hillyer has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Republic, The Guardian (UK), and Investor’s Business Daily.

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