Posts Tagged ‘Line Item Veto’

THE CASE FOR LINE ITEM VETO

April 27, 2020

A quick bit of history to preface the need for the above title. In 1996, Bob Dole introduced the Line Item Veto Act that passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Bill Clinton on Nov. 5, 1996. The Act gave the president exactly the powers that a president should and must have. It allowed for the president to reject items in a bill that were not required for the bill to be reasonable and viable on it’s own.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that line item veto gave the president (in that case William Jefferson Clinton who had signed the bill into law) unwarranted powers. The majority opinion at that time was, the president was required to approve or reject whole legislation and that the Line Item Veto Act allowed the president to “amend” legislation, which was an assault on the powers given to Congress under Article I.

As written, the majority opinion is correct. It would allow any president the opportunity to accept or reject any part or parts of any spending bill that he or she chose. However, the president still doesn’t have the final say on any legislation. Even when the president eliminates portions of a bill before signing, the product must then go back to the Senate for final approval or rejection. Thus, the president does not unilaterally amend the legislation, he or she only offers amendments for legislative body review. The Senate and House can accept, reject or offer further amendments then present the product to the president once again.

In 1998, however, the congress did not include such things as an $80 million study to identify “The Truth About how many Toads can be Handled by people before Warts Appear (TTATHWA)” in emergency spending bills to give relief to hurricane or flood victims. They did not include “federal security for Gated COMmunities (GCOM)” within their districts in bills directed at terrorism abroad.

Paying homage to Rahm “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” Emanuel, congress has taken advantage of the court ruling by interjecting personal preference spending on pet projects that help the members win re-election campaigns. Knowing that the wholesale rejection of an “emergency relief” bill in a time of crisis would damage this president, majority congressional leaders made sure to include every previously lobbied project into the emergency relief to replace lost income due to the Coronavirus. And, in preparation of possible rejection, party leaders wrote damning speeches for media airing and publication well in advance of sending the bills to the presidential desk. Given that President Trump signed the ridiculous all inclusive spending bill, they will keep the boilerplate letters and speeches in archive for future use.

There was definitely a need for immediate financial relief to workers, but President Trump is where the buck stops when blaming begins on this one. Line item veto power would have saved billions of dollars to direct where truly needed.

With a majority in the House, these Utopian desires could be written as stand-alone bills. They might be written in a few pages that could be read, digested and understood before voting on them. However, in order for any hope of becoming part of the makeup of the U.S., they must be concealed in multi-hundred page documents that are rarely read before voting is called. If they were good, valid and useful additions to American society the authors would gladly accept recognition for his/her contributions. This is not the way our government was meant to operate. Let us hope that there is another argument brought before the Supreme Court to consider line item veto authority for the president.