Line-item veto: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In government, the line-item veto is the power of an executive to nullify or cancel specific provisions of a bill, usually budget appropriations, without vetoing the entire legislative package. The line-item vetoes are usually subject to the possibility of legislative override as are traditional vetoes.


Use in the United States



This power is held by most state governors in the United States of America. All but seven US states do not have some form of line-item veto. Those states without the line-item veto are Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont.[1]

Confederate States

While this power is not supported by the United States Constitution, it was granted to the President of the Confederate States as the American Civil War broke out in 1861. Article 1, Section 7[2] of the Confederate States Constitution, adopted March 11, 1861, allowed the Confederate president the ability to "approve any appropriation and disapprove any other appropriation in the same bill," with such disapprovals returned to the houses of congress for reconsideration and potentially for override.

Line Item Veto Act of 1996

Presidents have repeatedly asked Congress to give them a line item veto power. According to Louis Fisher in The Politics of Shared Power, Ronald Reagan said to Congress in his 1986 State of the Union address, "Tonight I ask you to give me what forty-three governors have: Give me a line-item veto this year. Give me the authority to veto waste, and I'll take the responsibility, I'll make the cuts, I'll take the heat." Bill Clinton echoed the request in his State of the Union address in 1995.

The president was briefly granted this power by the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, passed by Congress to control "pork barrel spending" that favors a particular region rather than the nation as a whole. The line-item veto was used 82 times in 11 Bills from the federal budget by President Bill Clinton. [3][4]

However, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan ruled on February 12, 1998, that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was subsequently affirmed on June 25, 1998, by a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Clinton v. City of New York. The case was brought by the then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

A constitutional amendment to give the president line item veto power has been considered periodically since the Court ruled the 1996 act unconstitutional.

Subsequent developments

Though the Supreme Court struck down the Line Item Veto Act in 1998, President George W. Bush asked Congress to enact legislation that would return the line item veto power to the Executive. First announcing his intent to seek such legislation in his January 31, 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush sent a legislative proposal Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006 to Congress on March 6, 2006, urging its prompt passage. Senator Bill Frist, Senator John McCain, and Republican Whip Senator Mitch McConnell jointly introduced this proposal.

On that same day, Joshua Bolten, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, gave a press conference on the president’s line-item veto proposal. Bolten explained that the proposed Act would give the president the ability to single out “wasteful” spending and to put such spending on hold. While the spending line-item is on hold, the president can send legislation to Congress to rescind the particular line-item. The proposal would then be considered in both houses within ten days on an up or down basis, and could be passed by a simple majority. Additionally, such proposals could not be filibustered.

When asked how this proposed legislation was different from the 1996 Line Item Veto Act that was found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, Bolten said that whereas the former act granted unilateral authority to the Executive to disallow specific spending line items, the new proposal would seek Congressional approval of such line-item vetoes. Thus, for the president to successfully rescind previously enacted spending, a simple majority of Congress is required to agree to specific legislation to that effect.

Though the current line-item veto proposal is much weaker than the 1996 version, it has nevertheless failed to find strong support in Congress. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia called it "an offensive slap at Congress," asserting that the legislation would enable the president to intimidate individual members of Congress by targeting the projects of his political opponents. He also complained that the line-item veto as proposed would take away Congress’s constitutional "power of the purse" and give it to the executive branch.

On June 8, 2006, Viet D. Dinh, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and Nathan A. Sales, John M. Olin Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center, testified by written statement before the House Committee on the Budget on the constitutional issues in connection with the proposed legislation. Dinh and Sales argued that the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006 satisfies the Constitution’s Bicameralism and Presentment Clause, and therefore avoids the constitutional issues raised in the 1996 Act struck down by the Supreme Court. They also stated that the proposed Act is consistent with the basic principle that grants Congress broad discretion to establish procedures to govern its internal operations.

The proposed Act was approved by the House Budget Committee on June 14, 2006 by a vote of 24-9. It was approved in the full House on June 22. A similar bill was submitted in the Senate, but failed to win approval. The Legislative Line Item Veto Act has therefore not become law.

Line Item Veto Re-enactment Activity of 2009

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) started legislation to enact a limited version of the line-item veto. This would give the president the power to rescind earmarks of new bills by sending the bill back to Congress minus the line-item vetoed earmark. Congress would then vote on the line-item vetoed bill with a majority vote under fast track rules to make any deadlines the bill had.[5][6][7][8]


Some scholars, such as Louis Fisher, believe the line-item veto would give presidents too much power over government spending compared with the power of Congress.[9][10] Some argue that it could even give the president de-facto legislative authority in altering the law which could violate the principles and perhaps the letter of the Constitution.

Supporters of the line-item veto argue that the provision would make the President more accountable for federal spending. Also, the line-item veto can be used to prevent the enactment of controversial rider amendments that powerful legislators have sometimes inserted into important bills, or at least it can be used to ensure that someone elected at the national level is accountable for the enactment of such amendments. Without the line-item veto Presidents have often felt compelled to sign controversial riders into law even if they did not support them.

See also


  1. ^ Gubernatorial Veto Authority with Respect to Major Budget Bill(s)
  2. ^ Constitution of the Confederate States, Article
  3. ^ CNN
  4. ^ Office of the Federal Register
  5. ^ Video of reintroduction of Line Item Veto Bill 3/4/09
  6. ^ Feingold Press release 3/4/09
  7. ^ McCain Press Release 3/4/09
  8. ^ US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs showing whitehouse preliminary approval for Line Item Veto
  9. ^ Michael G. Locklar, Is the 1996 Line Item Veto Constitutional?, 34 Hous. L. Rev. 1161 (1997); Louis Fisher, State Techniques to Blunt the Governor's Item-Veto Power (1996) (CRS Report No. 96-996 GOV) (listing the tactics used in states “to counteract, blunt, or neutralize the governor's item-veto power”); Legislative Line-Item Veto Proposals: Hearing Before the Senate Comm. on the Budget, 103rd Cong. 60 (1994) (statement of Louis Fisher); Richard Briffault, The Item Veto in State Courts, 66 Temple L. Rev. 1171, 1181 (1993) (describing how legislative control over the definition of “item” has eroded the power of governors who have the line item veto); Louis Fisher & Neal Devins, How Successfully Can the States' Item Veto be Transferred to the President?, 75 Geo. L.J. 159 (1986).
  10. ^ Curry, James A.; Riley, Richard B.; Battistoni, Richard M.: Constitutional Government, Kendall Hunt, 2009, pg. 146

External links

Simple English

A line-item veto is the power of the president (or any leader of an executive branch) to reject certain individual parts of a piece of legislation (a bill) without rejecting the whole thing.

In the United States, almost all governors (leaders of the U.S. states) are able to use the line item veto. Currently, the president of the United States is not able to use the line-item veto. President Bill Clinton was given the line-item veto for a few years until the U.S. Supreme Court said that it was unconstitutional

People who like the line-item veto say that it is good because it allows the president to remove unimportant waste from important legislation. For example, it would be too dangerous to completely veto big pieces of legislation (like the budget for the military or the budget for other government departments), but with the line-item veto, the president can choose to keep the good parts of the bill and reject the bad parts of the bill.

People who do not like the line-item veto say that it is bad because it gives the president too much power over Congress and believe that it goes against the checks and balances created by the U.S. Constitution. Other criticisms include the possibility that the president's individual vetoes of line items make the bill different than what Congress voted for.


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