President Donald Trump signed the federal budget and coronavirus relied bills over the weekend. But he also signaled his displeasure with some of the line items tucked into the $2.3 trillion package.

In a message accompanying the bills, the president said:

I am demanding many rescissions under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The Act provides that, “whenever the President determines that all or part of any budget authority will not be required to carry out the full objectives or scope of programs for which it is provided, or that such budget authority should be rescinded for fiscal policy or other reasons (including termination of authorized projects or activities for which budget authority has been provided), the President shall transmit to both Houses of Congress a special message” describing the amount to be reserved, the relevant accounts, the reasons for the rescission, and the economic effects of the rescission. 2 U.S.C. § 683.

I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.

Critics of the omnibus bills have pointed out there is a slew of dubious projects getting taxpayer support. But despite the president’s signing message and his demand for changes, he lacks the legal authority to withhold appropriated funds indefinitely or to compel Congress to act. 

The fiscally responsible can argue that presidents need line-item veto authority to curb congressional excesses (and pork) like those in these new spending measures.

But that’s going to take a constitutional amendment. It’s a fight worth having.