A Historic Veto (8/11/97)
Clinton Veto Points To N.Y. Dispute (8/12/97)
Back To Court For Line-Item Veto (8/11/97)
Former Governor Hits Clinton Veto (8/11/97)
Voter's Voice: Clinton And The Line-Item Veto
Special Report: The Price Of Pork
Back To Court For Line-Item Veto
'We'll see what happens," Clinton says, on line-item veto challenge
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 11) -- In weighing his historic first use of the line-item veto, President Bill Clinton and his advisors also had to look for a good test case, because it's all but certain someone will challenge him on it.
Earlier this year, lawmakers on the losing side of the line-item question filed a lawsuit challenging Clinton's new authority. But when the case reached the Supreme Court, justices ruled they had no legal standing and let the law stand.
The problem was that since Clinton hadn't exercised the veto at that point, no one could believably argue they had been harmed by it. Courts deal with actual disputes of fact and law, not abstract, philosophical debates.
In fact, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out during arguments in the original case: "Practically, it is a majority of Congress that has caused this injury, not the president. They are only injured by their own folly."
Finding a plaintiff
Now the situation is different. It will be easy to find plaintiffs who can argue that the line-item veto is an unconstitutional shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch, and that Clinton's exercise of it has harmed them.
At last week's news conference, Clinton said he believes in the line-item veto, a power he had as Arkansas governor, and intended to use it. But he conceded there will be a constitutional challenge.
"I mean, as soon as I exercise it one time, somebody's going to file a suit against it and then we'll see what happens," Clinton said.
In letting the law stand earlier this year, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said the lawmakers "have alleged no injury to themselves as individuals."
"The institutional injury they allege is wholly abstract and widely dispersed and their attempt to litigate this dispute at this time and in this form is contrary to historical experience," Rehnquist wrote.
The justices did not address the underlying constitutional issue of the transfer of power to the president, and solely addressed whether the lawmakers could legally challenge the measure.
'On its head'
The only decision yet on the merits of the line-item veto came in early April, when U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that the veto law violates the Constitution's separation of powers, which gives Congress the power to tax and spend.
"Where the president signs a bill but then purports to cancel parts of it, he exceeds his constitutional authority and prevents both houses of Congress from participating in the exercise of lawmaking authority," Jackson wrote. "Never before has Congress attempted to give away the power to shape the content of a statute of the United States, as the Act purports to do ... Congress has turned the constitutional division of responsibilities for legislating on its head."
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