Line-item veto

President Barack Obama took a small step Monday toward tackling the federal government’s out-of-control spending habit when he embraced a version of the line-item veto that would allow him to excise pork from appropriations bills.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 struck down the line-item veto as an unconstitutional abrogation of congressional power. The justices held that the Constitution gave the president only the power to either sign a bill or veto it, no in between.

Since then, Republicans on the Hill have been pushing a version that would allow the president to kill individual spending items from bills as long as Congress later voted to approve the suggested cuts.

Democrats have previously blocked such legislation — but that will be far more difficult now that it has the support of Mr. Obama.

We “are eager to look for tools that will help us to reduce unnecessary spending whenever and wherever possible,” said Obama budget chief Peter Orszag.

Good.

Republicans applauded the president’s announcement, and they should work as quickly as possible to force majority Democrats in both chambers to hold hearings and a vote. Then it will be up to Mr. Obama to deliver.

If the Pelosi-Reid cabal insists on dithering, the GOP has a ready-made issue for November, when voters will be in no mood to hear excuses.

The president has done the right thing by pressuring Democrats to get serious about fiscal restraint. The nation must get a handle on its fragile budget situation, and while a watered-down line-item veto is no final solution, it can’t hurt.

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