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
Other Presidents Wanted Line-Item Power Too
Now Clinton faces another court challenge
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (Aug. 11) -- President Bill Clinton is the first president in history to use the line-item veto, authority given to him by Congress just last year. But his action is sure to face a quick court challenge, putting the president's new power to police congressional budget decisions to a constitutional test.
Clinton has a power his predecessors also coveted. Ronald Reagan wanted it.
"As governor, I found this line-item veto was a powerful tool against wasteful or extravagant spending," Reagan said in his 1984 State of the Union speech. "It works in 43 states; let's put it to work in Washington for all the people." (192K wav sound)
George Bush wanted it too. "I ask the American people then, to demand that a president be given line-item veto authority," he said in March 1990. (128K wav sound)
Indeed, every president since Abraham Lincoln has asked for the line-item veto, a power enjoyed by most of the nation's governors. But Clinton is the first president to get it and use it. Now he's preparing to defend it in court.
"As soon as I exercise it one time, somebody is going to file suit against it and then we'll see what happens," the president noted at his Aug. 6 news conference.
Many constitutional scholars think the Supreme Court will be in no mood to tip the balance of government power more in the president's favor.
"This court is not very fond of new legislative devices that sort of tinker with the constitutional structure and I think this line-item veto does go too far," said Georgetown University law professor Susan Block.
The law says Clinton can use the line-item veto on spending or tax provisions that benefit fewer than 100 individuals or companies. White House aides say most of the veto candidates in the balanced budget deal were small potatoes when it comes to wasteful spending.
But advisors urged the president to use his new power to send a message to any lawmakers thinking of adding big pork-barrel projects to spending bills pending in Congress.
"I do think at the margin we can see between five billion and 10 billion dollars of savings per year if presidents use this line-item veto judiciously," said Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute.
Congress can override any veto. But that requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, a margin hard to come by to save a narrow, special-interest project.
"I think it will reduce Americans' frustration that so many of their tax dollars go to these preposterous projects, white elephant projects that never should have been in the budget in the first place," Moore said.
The law was challenged last year by congressional opponents, but the Supreme Court ruled only someone directly affected by a veto has the legal standing to bring such a case.
So the administration was careful in picking its first line-item veto targets, looking for special-interest proposals that would be difficult to defend to taxpayers. But whether this careful political strategy matters when the debate shifts to the courts is an open question.
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