Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Line Item Veto Amendment in Senate

Senators Jim Talent (R-MO) and George Allen (R-VA) proposed an amendment to the US Constitution, today, that would provide the president with line-item veto authority to eliminate or reduce appropriations in any bill passed by the Congress. The measure is listed as S.J.RES 25, and currently resides in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In announcing the proposal, Senator Talent said, "The line item veto is a time-tested, time-honored tool. Our amendment will strengthen the hand of the executive by giving the President the discretion to remove items from appropriations bills that may have been logrolled in by the Congress but are considered wasteful on a national perspective."

This is not the first time a bill was introduced to give the President a line-item veto. Congress passed a similar measure in 1996, and President Clinton used the authority on 82 separate occasions before the Supreme Court declared the measure unconstitutional in 1998. Amending the constitution is the only way to circumvent that problem.

I'm of mixed emotions about the concept of a line-item veto. On one hand, I do like the idea that undue pork can be eliminated from bills without killing the entire bill. The problem, though, is that the line-item veto can completely change the complexion of a bill. Giving the President the ability to eliminate portions without sending the entire measure back to Congress upsets the overall balance of power between the coequal branches of government.

Without provisions to send the entire bill back to Congress, I need to stand against this constitutional amendment. The way I see it, allowing the President to change the contents of a bill without sending it back to Congress is too fundamental a change to the legislative process. This one needs to go back to the drawing board. The Supreme Court was right to throw it out in '98 and I really don't want to see the constitution modified to overturn that decision.


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