A line item veto is a specific type of veto which allows a chief executive to veto certain parts of a bill passed by a legislative assembly in order to prevent those provisions from becoming law. This veto enables the chief executive to determine that certain parts of a bill will not be in the best interests of the overall constituents and get rid of just those provisions instead of having to veto the whole bill. Although almost all Presidents have desired a line item veto the President does not have the right currently to enact a line item veto. Historically only former President Bill Clinton had the right to a line item veto and then for only a brief period. He vetoed three provisions of a tax a budget bill before the line item veto was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court (Bruhl, 2008).
Most state governors have line-item veto power with respect to at least some types of legislative bills though like regular vetoes line item vetoes can generally be overridden by the legislature. Many have questioned why governors have the right to a line item veto while the President does not. The argument is that a President could unfairly punish a state by vetoing certain provisions because of displeasure with a state’s representative.
I think the President should be allowed a line item veto because when a bill is passed by Congress often representatives from different states attach items that would benefit their state alone in order to garner favor and get re-elected. Since there are not term limits for Congress representatives often seek re-election repeatedly and must come up with reasons they should be supported over new candidates. This means the President is often faced with the decision to pass a bill that includes a great deal of “pork barrel” spending to pass provisions he believes are in the best interest of the American people as a whole. Also he cannot veto many bills without causing members of Congress to feel he doesn’t back their efforts. Additionally, the argument that he can unfairly punish individual states since he can claim to represent the people of the entire U.S. is not convincing to me. The same thing would be true for a governor in that they represent the entire state while individual legislators represent small areas of the state. So the governor would be able to claim they represent the welfare of the residents of the entire state and veto a part of a Bill that was added to benefit one small area to punish the representative from that area.
In Clinton V. City of New York, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether President Clinton violated the Presentment Clause of the Constitution when deciding to selectively cancel only certain part of bills before signing the bill into law. The Court held that by doing so, President Clinton effectively amended the bills before passing them and stating that this was unconstitutional and that the President could only veto a bill or pass a bill in its entirety (Mittal, 2007). I don’t agree with the Courts decision because while an amendment could be considered anything that changes a law this would imply that the final law after the President canceled parts of it had never been voted on by Congress. Everything in the original Bill was voted on and just because certain parts were canceled doesn’t mean that what was left was different from what Congress saw or that it was in some way rewritten.
- Bruhl, A. A. P. (2008). Return of the Line Item Veto? Legalities, Practicalities, and Some Puzzles. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, 10, 447.
- Mittal, S. (2007). Constitutionality of an Expedited Rescission Act: The New Line Item Veto or a New Constitutional Method of Achieving Deficit Reduction, The. Geo. Wash. L. Rev., 76, 125.