Line-item veto

A Historic Veto (8/11/97)

Line-Item Fallout: Criticism, Possible Lawsuits (8/12/97)

Clinton Veto Points To N.Y. Dispute (8/12/97)

Back To Court For Line-Item Veto (8/11/97)

Other Presidents Wanted Line-Item Power Too (8/11/97)

Simmons Says He's Being Unfairly Singled Out (8/11/97)

Former Governor Hits Clinton Veto (8/11/97)

CQ: Clinton Weighs Politics, History In Decision To Use Veto Power (8/11/97)

CQ: Can States Give Washington A Lesson In Veto Politics? (8/11/97)

Voter's Voice: Clinton And The Line-Item Veto

Special Report: The Price Of Pork

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Line-Item Veto Guy!

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A Historic Veto

Clinton strikes one spending, two tax provisions; GOP says it was 'blindsided'


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 11) -- President Bill Clinton, with a historic stroke of his veto pen, struck three items from the balanced-budget spending and tax laws this afternoon.

"The actions I take today will save the American people hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years," Clinton said, "and send a signal that the Washington rules have changed for good, and for the good of the American people. (384K wav sound)

"The first balanced budget in a generation is also the first balanced budget in American history to be strengthened by the line-item veto," Clinton said in the Oval Office ceremony. "And that will strengthen our country."

The three items that Clinton vetoed were:

  • A Medicaid provision affecting reimbursements to the state of New York. The administration says the measure gives New York too much Medicaid funding. Clinton called it "impermissible in every other state in the country." "No other state in the nation would be given this provision, and it is unfair to the rest of our nation's taxpayers to ask them to subsidize this."

  • A special tax break for the sale of a sugar beet processing plant owned by Texas businessman and Republican Party contributor Harold Simmons. The estimated savings to the Treasury were $84 million over five years. "Though well-intentioned, Clinton said, the provision "is poorly designed." It "would have allowed a very limited number of agribusiness to avoid paying capital-gains taxes, possibly forever, on the sales of certain assets to farmer's cooperatives," Clinton said.

  • A tax provision that benefits some banks and financial institutions by lowering taxes if they move money around overseas. The provision, Clinton said, "would allow financial service companies to shelter income in foreign tax havens to avoid all U.S. taxation."

This marks the first time the line-item veto has ever been used, and a court challenge to its constitutionality is all but certain.


House Speaker Newt Gingrich immediately lashed out at Clinton for exercising the power Republicans fought for years to give the president.

Gingrich's press spokeswoman, Christina Martin, said in a statement, "Disappointment and surprise are the usual side effects of being blindsided. And today's line item veto announcement is no exception. The speaker and other Republican negotiators believe the White House had bargained in good faith. It now appears that may not have been the case. No objection to these provisions was raised throughout the talks, therefore these vetoes may have less to do with sound policy and more to do with petty politics."

Clinton insisted that the items he vetoed met three tests he set: that they affected few people, that they were not part of the agreement that the administration worked out with congressional leaders, and that they were bad public policy. (416K wav sound)

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott expressed support for Clinton's right to strike the items, and looked ahead to the next move.

"Everyone knows that I fought for years to give the line-item veto authority to the president of the United States," Lott said in a statement. "I'm a firm supporter of the process, and as part of that process Congress now has a period of time to review the president's cancellations and make the decision on whether to move to disapprove them."

In a similar vein, Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement, "The President has asserted his prerogative which is his under the law. The Congress will determine when they return in September on what action, if any, they will take on these items."

New York's Republican governor, George Pataki, bitterly decried Clinton's action on the Medicaid provision. He said at a press conference, "President Clinton's veto, if not overridden, is a body-blow to our health care network that could endanger $2.6 billion for the health care of our children and our neediest citizens. I urge the congressional delegation to unite in a bipartisan fashion to stop President Clinton from singling out families and children for punishment."

Bipartisan smiles reigned at the signing of the budget deal

The line-item veto allows Clinton to veto specific provisions in spending bills without having to veto the entire bill. For more than 100 years presidents have pushed for this power, which governors of 43 states already possess. Clinton is the first to have it.

Both the budget and tax bills were the result of strenuous negotiations between Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress. The president has said previously that he would not use the line-item veto on any provisions that were specifically agreed to by his negotiators, but that he might veto other items that were outside the scope of the negotiations.

Worries about 'nitpicking'

Some GOP leaders had been grumbling about that possibility, saying Clinton should not tamper the a deal both sides negotiated in good faith.

A court challenge is a virtual certainty

"I hope he doesn't start nitpicking little bits and pieces of it," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss).

In June, the Supreme Court turned back a challenge to the line-item veto filed by six members of Congress, who argued that the procedure unconstitutionally shifts power away from the legislative branch.

However, the court didn't rule on the merits of the line-item veto itself. Rather, the justices said the congressmen had no standing to challenge it.

Clinton signed the budget and tax bills into law last week, and had five days to exercise line-item vetoes of specific provisions.

The bill giving the president the line-item veto sets up a procedure for Congress to override his decisions. However, it would likely take a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate to do so.


Another court challenge is widely expected within days if not hours, and the president's new power could face an uncertain future. The Justice Department and White House counsel's office are qalready preparing for the legal assault.

"[Clinton] knows if he uses it, it'll get challenged, and he knows there's a chance it will get struck down," said Susan Block of the Georgetown University Law Center.

CNN's John King contributed to this report.

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