Why a Presidential Veto Won’t Reduce the National Debt

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Carper (D-DE) proposed recent legislation to give expanded presidential veto authority to Barack Obama.

“Our line-item veto proposal will enable some much needed fiscal restraint,” McCain said. He supported a 2006 request made by President George W. Bush for presidential, or line-item, veto authority. The request was opposed by a majority of Senators that included Joe Biden and Barack Obama. “I’m pleased that the president has changed his position and now recognizes the importance of the line-item veto.”

In a press release saying the presidential veto authority will “help to end the abuse of the American taxpayer dollar in pork-laden legislation,” McCain explained why he thinks the presidential veto will reduce the national debt by eliminating earmarks and other non-entitlement spending.

McCain’s Democratic colleague agreed. “As a former governor who had similar discretion to cut unnecessary state spending,” said Carper, who stepped down in 2001 from his job as Delaware’s governor. “I’ve long advocated for the president to have this enhanced power.”

Conflict Between Government Branches

But a presidential veto is full of problems. It’s considered by most legal experts to be unconstitutional. It would also shift power away from Congress, giving Obama a weapon to use against a Republican majority able to caucus in the Senate. And most relevant to the recently-introduced legislation, a presidential veto does nothing to reduce government spending, according to the Handbook of Government Budgeting.

Many governors have line-item vetoes, but such vetoes seldom make much financial impact on the budget. They do make it easier for the governors who have them to exert policy dominance over their legislatures.

Giving expanded presidential veto power to Barack Obama – who has contributed to the national debt with record-high spending – is a bad idea. Beginning with Senators McCain and Carper, Americans need to make sure everybody in Congress knows that the idea’s success first depends on competence in the Oval Office.


Irene S. Rubin, “Understanding the Role of Conflict in Budgeting,” in Handbook of Government Budgeting, ed. Roy T. Meyers (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999).


One thought on “Why a Presidential Veto Won’t Reduce the National Debt

  1. Pingback: More Conflict with Expanded Veto Proposal « Grey2012

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