Understanding the Line-Item Veto With a Twist

We recently released our Make the Presidency Work! action plan. Reform four in the action plan, the line-item veto with a twist, was met with many questions from supporters. Some wondered how it worked, while others asked what differentiated the reform from the line-item veto that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. We tried to answer all of your questions here.

What is the line-item veto?

The line-item veto is a power granted to a chief executive to selectively veto certain parts of a bill without vetoing the entire bill.  Many governors have this power but the Supreme Court declared line items vetoes for the president unconstitutional in 1998.

Many supporters of the line-item veto believe its chief virtue is that it allows the president to eliminate wasteful spending provisions like earmarks from legislation.

How is No Labels’ “Line Item Veto with a Twist” proposal different from the traditional line-item veto?

No Labels supports giving the president the power of rescission – in which the president has to send each individual provision that he’d like to strip from a bill back to Congress for an expedited, up or down vote.

Expedited presidential rescission authority already has broad bipartisan support in Congress from members who want more transparency and accountability in the legislative process.  No Labels wants the same thing.

What is the history of the line-item veto?

While 44 state governors have line-item veto power, Congress has often refused to grant this power to the president out of fear that it will be used as a political tool to punish certain congressmen who refuse to go along with the president’s agenda.

Bill Clinton was briefly able to use a straight line-item veto, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in Clinton v. City of New York in 1998.

Why was the straight line-item veto considered unconstitutional and how is what No Labels is proposing constitutional?

In Clinton v. City of New York, the Supreme Court found that the line-item veto violated the Presentment Clause of the Constitution, which says that the president does not have the power to unilaterally amend or repeal legislation passed by Congress.

However, by sending the rescinded part of the bill back to Congress for an expedited up or down vote, our “line-item veto with a twist” complies with the Presentment Clause of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s ruling.







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