Let’s Take Another Look At The Line Item Veto
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In 1996, President Bill Clinton successfully used 44 different line item vetoes to save the American public $2 billion dollars. Then in 1998, the Supreme Court ruled the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional by a vote of 6 to 3. In the case of Clinton v. New York, the Supreme Court cited that only Congress held the power of the purse, saying the actions taken by the Executive Branch affected spending and therefore must be voted on by Congress.
Having been one of the few unifying factors of the parties here in Washington, we have seen numerous attempts by different Congresses to pass a line item veto bill. Today, we have a new version of the 1996 bill, which hopes, to solve the problem of constitutionality. The Expedited Line Item Veto Act of 2011 would require that any pieces of a spending bill marked for recession or elimination by the president, be sent back to Congress for a straight up or down vote, without the possibility of amendments or filibuster. Acting as a new bill, these recessions or elimination bills, would be sent back to the President as a brand new bill for signature into law. They would then amend the original spending bill and either reduce certain levels of funding or completely remove them. Since all bills originated in Congress, the bills proponents hope that the issue of constitutionality will be met.
Those proponents happen to be from both sides of the aisle, with the Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan [R-WI], and the top ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen [D-MD], are championing the bill in the House. In the Senate the bill is receiving support from Senators John McCain [R-AZ], Dan Coats [R-IN], Tom Carper [D-DE], and Mark Udall [D-CO], with the White House also putting in support for the bill. Garnering this level of support in both chambers, we should at least expect to see lively debate on the issue.
A number of opponents to the bill have claimed in the Washington Post that the bill is unconstitutional and reverses the separation of powers. While Minority Whip Steny Hoyer [D-MD] voices opposition because, as written now, the bill requires that any saved funds are used for deficit ordebt reduction, instead of returning to Congress for other purposes.
The bill’s future is unclear. What is clear to the American people is that we have a bill that could, and in the past has, save us billions in wasteful government spending. With the purpose of the bill to reduce the waste that Washington produces on a daily basis, it only makes sense that funds from the veto be used solely for deficit and debt reduction. If Congress can’t figure that out, then why have a line item veto bill at all?