March 6, 2009
Line-Item Veto Legislation in House, Senate
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) have introduced line-item veto legislation that purports to solve the constitutional problems in the 1996 Line Item Veto Act overturned in Clinton v. New York. The press release is here; the bill is here.
Recall that the 1996 Line Item Veto Act authorized the President to sign spending legislation, but at the same time cancel any line item within it. The cancellation took effect upon receipt by Congress. Congress could override to restore the original lines, but without override the President would have unilaterally amended the legislation and would have signed different legislation than the Congress passed. The Court thus overturned the Act.
This new bill would allow the President, after signing legislation containing any earmark, tariff benefit, or targeted tax benefit, to issue a "proposed cancellation" of certain items and to withhold an obligation of those items for 45 days. Unlike the 1996 line-item veto, the proposed cancellation does not alter the legislation; it merely prompts new Congressional action. Congress would then pass new legislation (in effect, and with certain restrictions) effecting the President's proposed cancellations. Under the bill, then, the President signs the same legislation--both the original legislation and the new legislation prompted by the proposed cancellation--that Congress enacts. Thus the Feingold-McCain-Ryan bill purports to navigate Clinton v. New York.
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