In his press briefing on Wednesday, Robert Gibbs offered the strongest assertion to date that President Obama would like to see the restoration of the line-item veto.
Asked if Obama would use that legislative tool -- which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998 -- to help weed out the earmarks from the forthcoming omnibus-spending bill, the press secretary replied:
"I can assure you that he'd love to take that for a test drive."
The remark appears to be the most definitive endorsement of the line-item veto from Obama to date. Past presidents have long sought the legislative power to reject specific spending items or tax breaks from individual bills. (Congress would have the power to reinstate the declined items by passing separate legislation). Bill Clinton was granted the authority in 1996, only to have the Court rule it unconstitutional two years later. In 2006, George Bush formally announced that he wanted legislation to re-introduce the line-item veto. His position was echoed by John McCain on the 2008 campaign trail.
But Obama, for his part, doesn't appear to have formally announced support or opposition to the restoration of line-item veto authority.
Asked more generally if, as a way of demonstrating his commitment to cutting down on pork, Obama would veto the entire omnibus-spending bill -- which GOP officials have blasted as containing hundreds if not thousands of earmarks -- Gibbs demurred.
"I think he is very concerned about earmarks," he said. "But without looking at a specific piece of legislation, I'm hesitant to throw out that four-letter word: veto."