The Collective
Monday, March 6, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via ABC News: Bush to Propose Line-Item Veto Legislation

President Bush plans to send proposed legislation to Congress on Monday that would allow him to control spending by vetoing specific items in larger bills, a Bush administration official said.

This strikes me as a total non-starter. The Surpeme Court was pretty emphatic when it struck down the 1996 legislation that granted a line item veto and it is pretty clear that the only way to get one is to amend the constitution–and that is radically unlikley.

Here are some highlight from the June 26, 1998 edition of WaPo on the Court’s ruling:

In a 6 to 3 decision, the court held that the line-item veto law violates a constitutional requirement that legislation be passed by both houses of Congress and presented in its entirety to the president for signature or veto.


Unlike earlier laws giving the president discretionary spending authority, “this act gives the president the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

Such line-item vetoes are “the functional equivalent of partial repeals of acts of Congress,” he said. But “there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” he added.


In his opinion, Stevens said Congress could alter the president’s role in determining the final text of a law only by constitutional amendment.

Even with the changes in the composition of the Court since that ruling, I don’t see that fact changing.

The dissenters in the case were Scalia, O’Connor and Breyer.

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  1. Of course, Congress could simply pass each expenditure as a separate bill, which the President could then sign or veto individually.

    Oh wait, that would mean passing a few million bills each year?

    Go figure…

    Comment by KipEsquire — Monday, March 6, 2006 @ 9:06 am

  2. It looks to me like a repeat of that case would now be 5-4 (because I would guess Roberts would be in favor, though I would have assumed Rehnquist would have been, too, so who knows). If that is accurate, then it may not be a great stretch to think that a statute could be crafted in such a way as to get one more vote, with Scalia being the obvious target (there can be no doubt that Alito would take the same position as the justice he replaced).

    Similar presidential powers in other presidential systems point to the conclusion that the item veto is a terrible idea.

    Comment by Matthew Shugart — Monday, March 6, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  3. What Part of “Unconstitutional” is Unclear?

    Many people, myself included, scratched our heads when we heard President Bush ask in his most recent State of the Union Address for Congress to pass legislation granting the President the line-item veto.

    We were puzzled because we had jus…

    Trackback by A Stitch in Haste — Monday, March 6, 2006 @ 11:42 am

  4. I can’t help but think that if they are willing to try it again so soon, they must know something that we don’t. Maybe they believe that the court is now configured in such a way as to let it stand. (I’m not saying that it is necessarily, I’m just saying they must now think that it is or they wouldn’t waste their time.

    I’ve just never understood why the Congress was ever willing to pass the line/item veto in the first place. It would seem that it would greatly reduce their ability to bring the pork back home to their individual districts.

    Comment by Jan — Tuesday, March 7, 2006 @ 8:02 am

  5. why is it that something which seems, at least to me, blatantly unconstitutional could have been be supported by the “strict constructionist” Scalia? And now, if the court is configured correctly, then roberts & alito must be willing to disregard the constitution in this case. And yet, weren’t they made with the “strict constructionist” model also? At least that’s what they indicated in the Senate hearings.

    I don’t get it.

    Comment by eric — Tuesday, March 7, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

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