How Trump gets his line-item veto

A dozen phone calls would do it.

  The President says this is the only way to fix the budget process.  His predecessors, from Ulysses S. Grant to Reagan to Obama, have wanted this authority.  Trump now believes this is also the only way to get around the filibuster.

The BBA Task Force, which I have been affiliated with for five years, has passed state legislative Resolutions across the country, calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment.  We have never recommended what the content of the Amendment would be.  There are so many ideas, to select only one would have unnecessarily alienated some devoted budget balancers.

As a result, when we’re asked, “What would a Balanced Budget Amendment actually say?”, we have no answer.  In one sense, we’ve been asking state legislators to buy a pig in a poke.  State legislators will decide at the Amendment Convention, we say, and they’ll come up with a good product.

But we don’t know that, and it’s unconvincing.  So I propose we change tactics, and push the line-item veto as the goal of a BBA.  The Amendment Convention will be controlled by the conservative legislative leaders of the thirty-plus red states.  If Trump asks for the line-item veto, they’ll give it to him.   I know these people, many of them personally, and they are the most pro-Trump group of politicians in the country.  They will be ready to follow the President’s recommendations.

In my opinion, the Amendment Convention should propose a line-item veto, and then adjourn.  It’s one thing everyone can agree on, and it’s something the public can understand.  You do not want to try to sell a multi-subject Constitutional Amendment.  Anything beyond the line-item veto will only antagonize some sector of the electorate, so “keep it simple, stupid”.  It’s always good politics.

Typical of the twelve calls will be one to Montana State Senate President Scott Sales, Republican from Bozeman.  Senator Sales is afraid of a runaway convention.  The President must assure him that he will, personally, never allow that to happen.  And tell him how much he wants that line-item veto.  Make twelve such calls to state legislative leaders in six Republican-controlled state legislatures, and we’ll get to 34 next year.  The Amendment Convention could be held in late summer, and the ratification could be done by State Conventions before the end of 2019.  If all went according to plan, Trump could have a line-item veto at the beginning of 2020, with the 2020 Presidential election just months away.

We’ve got the names and the numbers.  But the President has to make the calls.

Want the line item veto? Put it in a balanced budget amendment.

A balanced budget amendment can alter the balance of power between the Congress and the President.  The President needs more than a veto.  He must be allowed to reduce or eliminate individual expenditures.  The executive must never be allowed to appropriate money, but he should be authorized not to spend all that Congress wants.  All this can be included in the amendment to be proposed at the BBA Article V Convention.

A budget can be limited by restrictions on spending, or by increasing revenue.  Or it can be limited by Presidential veto.  Or some combination of the three.  In one amendment, to balance the budget.

President Trump loves the exercise of power.  It’s almost like sex.  He wants as much as he can get.  This idea ought to appeal to him.  The problem is convincing him that it’s feasible.

Eventually, the case will be put before him.  He’ll need to act immediately after the fall elections.  That’s how long we’ve got to get to him.

Only Trump can control our only distinctly American criminal class

If President Trump is thoroughly disgusted with Congress now, how’s he going to feel with the Democrats in charge?  The news from Pennsylvania on redistricting is grim, and there are enough vulnerable Republicans in blue states to get the Democrats to 218.  Come November, if Democrats are in charge, we can expect two years of gridlock and political trench warfare, even worse than we have today.  What weapons will the President have in this war, beyond the veto?

Congress can impeach a President and the Supreme Court, and in Article V the  Constitution establishes a procedure for Congress itself to be disciplined.  But the 50 State Legislatures who hold this power have ever been able to unify sufficiently in order to exercise it.  No one has been able to lead the 7,383 individuals who control our state legislatures.

There is only one person in the country who can provide this leadership, the President.  While he is not mentioned in Article V, the President has political powers which are needed in order for Article V to finally be put to use.

Like legislative bodies big and small, across the country and around the world, every year Congress is obligated to pass one, and only one, bill  — a budget.  As we’re watching this week, the process which Congress now uses to pass a budget is the worst of all possible worlds.  Four people – McConnell, Schumer, Ryan and Pelosi – write the budget in secret, and the members are forced to accept it or be blamed for shutting down the government.  It’s a form of legislative dictatorship.  That’s why McConnell, in particular, likes doing business this way.

What can Trump, or anybody else, do about this?  Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment which contains reforms of the internal workings of Congress itself.  In order to balance, the process by which a budget passes must be overhauled.

Congress is incapable of healing itself.  With Article V and a Balanced Budget Amendment, the states and the people, with Presidential leadership, can get the job done.

This could be the defining issue of the 2020 Presidential campaign.  Trump can run against Congress, like Harry Truman in 1948.

If he succeeds, and Article V is used, Trump will have been the first President to use this feature of the Constitution to control Congress.  The balance of power in our constitutional system will have changed.  This would be a constitutional development more significant than Marbury vs. Madison.  In a fight with Congress, every future President will know he can call on the states, and the people, to help him prevail.

And the states, and the people, will have finally asserted their ultimate sovereignty.


Trump does not signal virtue

One of the benefits of having a President with something of a checkered past, personally, is that he doesn’t pretend to be our moral superior.  He’s obviously a deeply flawed man, with an inner insecurity that drives his furious energy.  But he really doesn’t pretend to be anything other than he is.

This is why, if you can ignore his boorish boasting, he’s so refreshing.  and effective.  His congratulatory call to Putin is deplored by all his moral superiors.  He ignores them, and advances the interests of his country by dealing directly with our only real nuclear rival.  The man’s a brutal dictator, as shown recently in London.  But he speaks for Russia, and we must speak with him.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Pompeo for President

It’s about time we had an Italian-American President, and Mike Pompeo might be the guy.  In 2024 he’ll be 61, in his prime.  On paper, he’s perfect.  We’ll soon find out about his political skills.

Another possibility is Scott Pruitt of the EPA.  I think he’ll wind up as Attorney General when Sessions is eased out, and become a star of the administration.  He’ll be 56 in 2024.

Add in V.P. Pence (who will be 65) and you have a team of rivals, just as Lincoln had.  But these three are a lot better than Lincoln had.

Another solid move by Trump.