clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Now top court to decide fate of line-item veto

The battle over the line-item veto is finally heading to the Supreme Court, now that a lower-court judge has declared President Clinton's new power unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan issued the ruling Thursday, dealing a blow to a power that both Clinton and the Republican Congress said was a key weapon in the fight against wasteful "pork-barrel" projects.Under a provision of the 1996 line-item veto law, the legal challenge now goes right to the justices, rather than snaking first through an appeals court.

The law, enacted in 1996 and used last year for the first time, gives the president the authority to kill individual items in spending and tax measures that otherwise become law.

Congress can restore vetoed projects with two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. Lawmakers later this month - in a coincidence of timing - are likely to revive 38 of the 82 items Clinton vetoed last year.

Conservatives fought for the power for years, Clinton embraced it during his 1992 presidential race, and House Republicans made it part of their 1994 "Contract With America" campaign manifesto. But Hogan said the law unconstitutionally shifted power from Congress to the president, giving him unilateral powers far beyond what the framers en-vi-sioned.

"The Constitution dictates that once a bill becomes law, the president's sole duty is to `take care that the laws be faithfully executed,"' Hogan wrote. "His power cannot expand to that of `co-designer' of the law - that is Congress' domain."

In a written statement, Clinton predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the law. He also spoke of its value.

"It has worked well, saving the American taxpayers more than $1 billion already," he said.