March 6, 2006

Bush Will Propose Line-Item Veto

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:45 pm

Following up on a pre-State of the Union BizzyBlog suggestion (ha, ha; 1st question at link), the AP reports that President Bush is going to propose “line-item veto” legislation to allow a president to veto specific items in a bill without having to veto the entire bill, which is the constitutional requirement today.

This is potentially good news for porkbusters, but there are lots of obstacles:

Both Republican and Democratic presidents have sought the power to eliminate a single item in a spending or tax bill without killing the entire measure.

President Clinton got that wish in 1996, when the new reform-minded Republican majority in the House helped pass a line-item veto law.

Two years later, the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional because it violated the principle that Congress, and not the executive branch, holds the power of the purse.

It’s also impossible not to notice that the President has not exercised his veto power even once while in office. So it’s reasonable to ask if he would ever exercise a line-item veto.

Any new line-item veto bill needs to somehow address the shortcomings cited by the Surpreme Court in 1998. That decision was made on a vote of 6-3. The two newest court members, who might (emphasis “might”) be expected to have sympathty for a line-item veto, are replacing one who voted with the majority to declare it unconstitutional (Rehnquist) and one who dissented (O’Connor). Some other judge besides the four “expected” to support the line-item veto needs to be persuaded to change his or her vote from last time. And there’s always uncertainty about what the Court will do: Most probably would have thought that Rehnquist’s and O’Connor’s votes would have been the opposite of what they actually were, which is why predicting whether ANY line-item veto legislation will pass Supreme Court muster is an iffy proposition.

UPDATE: A later AP report (HT QandO) by Nedra Pickler describes how the bill hopes to jump the constitutional hurdle:

Instead, Bush is proposing that he be allowed to send Congress proposals to strike earmarks from spending bills and special interest tax breaks and that Congress be required to bring them to a vote. Constitutional scholars say this version should pass muster with the Supreme Court.

The “required to bring them to a vote” is the key language. Without that, they would just sit on anything the president sent back. Based on the excerpted description, it looks like the president would get only one opportunity to send back a bill with his proposed deletions.

QandO also notes a high possbility of flip-flops by senators and congressmen from their previous votes in 1996 on Bush’s proposed legislation for opportunistic and partisan political reasons.



  1. Let’s pass this as part of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. This seems too much like a ploy and no, I have little faith that Mr. Bush — or Republicans running for reelection — will stop the pork.

    Comment by Steven J. Kelso Sr. — March 6, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

  2. I don’t see how this proposal will pass constitutional muster, either. It all seems very gimmicky to me, a way to deflect attention from the fact that this Congress and this president have allowed spending to spiral out of control.

    Comment by Michael Meckler — March 7, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  3. #2, I’m as surprised as you are that the AP reporter found constitutional scholars who appeared confident that the Bush version of LIV is constitutional, but there it is.

    Comment by TBlumer — March 7, 2006 @ 10:44 am

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