More Conflict with Expanded Veto Proposal

Expanded Veto May Cut Spending

A buddy from my years as a U.S. Army volunteer wrote in reply to my question about what he thought of an expanded presidential veto authority we discussed in a prior article.

“I love it,” my Army buddy said, explaining how he thought the expanded, or line-item, veto is needed to cut government spending.

Despite agreeing with my friend’s opinion, some have criticized the potential a spendthrift president using expanded veto as a political weapon. And an additional problem has been brought up that makes one question the legality of a line-item veto.

Courts Judge Constitutional Authority

Similar to Barack Obama’s health-spending bill, the line-item veto has suffered from legal challenges based on the separation of powers.

The Line-Item Veto Act of 1996 authorized the president to cancel “any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority; any item of new direct spending; or . . . any limited tax benefit.” But lawmakers in Congress challenged the Act, asking whether the expanded veto represented a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s presentment clause (i.e. Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2).

Although the Supreme Court dismissed the case on grounds that the veto had not been used, a lower court previously declared the Act unconstitutional. “The Act effectively permits the President to repeal duly enacted provisions of federal law,” a U.S. District Court said. “This he cannot do.”

Demand v. Supply

Economic experts say a case related to the line-item veto will make it back to the Supreme Court, with different plaintiffs and the possibility for more change in American tradition.

In the meantime, Americans say the economy – and specifically structural unemployment – is the country’s most important problem. It’s another signal that Barack Obama is off on the wrong track, seeking a line-item veto and focusing on lackluster demand for workers, while those same workers who supply the jobs are the ones in greatest need of attention by an effective executive.


Phillip J. Cooper, “Courts and Fiscal Decision Making,” in Handbook of Government Budgeting, ed. Roy T. Meyers (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999).