THE ISSUE OF the line-item veto is as old as the republic and indeed goes to one of the fundamental precepts of our constitutional form of government - the power of the purse.

I strongly believe that once this power is ceded from the legislative branch to the executive branch it will never be restored.My bill provides a mechanism to cancel spending without ceding excessive power to the president. Sen. John McCain's bill would grant the president unilateral authority to rescind monies appropriated by Congress.

To overturn a presidential recission under the McCain bill, Congress would have to take two steps. First, each house would have to pass a bill of disapproval limited to the entire rescission package. Congress could not eliminate individual items in the president's proposed rescission package. Clearly, the president would veto this disapproval resolution. Therefore, in the second step, each House of Congress would have to override his veto with a two-thirds vote.

A true line-item veto only would allow a president to delete funding for broad programs and activities as provided in an appropriations act.

The McCain bill is much more than a line-item veto because it would allow the president to reach well beyond the amounts appropriated in law.

Under current law, the president can propose rescinding funding for individual programs, projects and activities, from aircraft carriers down to paper clips, but Congress can, and usually does, ignore the president's proposals and they never take effect. The McCain bill would make the president's recissions effective with no action required by Congress. Further, it is a permanent change in law - once the power is given to the president it will never be returned.

I am particularly concerned about what the McCain bill means for defense funding and foreign policy. As commander in chief, the president has a great deal of discretion over defense and foreign policy. Congress' ability to influence foreign and national security policy is largely limited to our control over the budget, which we would lose with the Mc-Cain bill.

For example, if the president included the termination of the national missile defense program, M-1 tank, funding for weapons testing or the B-2 bomber as part of a large rescission package for the entire defense appropriations bill, Congress would have to pass a bill disapproving of all the rescissions including these items. The president would veto this disapproval bill. Items first adopted by a majority vote could be reinstated only by 67 votes in the Senate.

I have introduced an alternative legislative line-item veto that guarantees the president a vote on his rescission proposals while maintaining the balance of power.

Under my bill, the president would propose spending reductions and Congress would have to vote within 10 days on them. The proposed rescission would take effect only if Congress passed legislation under these expedited procedures and the president signed the legislation into law. A majority would continue to rule.

My bill differs from the McCain bill in two important respects. First, it applies to all new spending legislation, not just appropriations. Second, it contains a "lock-box" that guarantees the savings are devoted to deficit reduction.

This is an issue of the appropriate balance of powers between Congress and the president. My hope is that we can agree on an approach that gets a bill on the president's desk without unduly disrupting this delicate balance of powers.