President's Use Of Line-Item Veto Angers Congress
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 7) -- It appears to be a tale of "be careful what you ask for ... you may get it."
President Bill Clinton's use of the line-item veto to scrap projects for the Defense appropriations bill has ruffled many Republican as well as Democratic feathers on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.) Tuesday introduced long-shot legislation to overturn Clinton's veto of the 38 military construction projects. "We've got a long trail to go ... but I wouldn't be pessimistic about it," said Skeen. He and co-sponsors Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Norm Sisisky (D-Va.) all lost pet projects with the swipe of Clinton's pen.
Clinton cut $287 million from the taxpayers' tab -- in spite of Congress' grumbling -- by using the veto power sought by presidents for more than a century and acquired by none, until the Republicans made it a central part of their Contract With America.
The line-item veto law was enacted in 1996. In June 1997, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by six senators and let stand the president's authority to reject individual items from tax and spending legislation.
Clinton first used the power in June to cut three obscure tax provisions that benefited only a limited number of people.
Angry members of Congress huffed and cried foul, but conceded that it would be tough to override Clinton's veto. Congress can send the vetoed items back to the president with a simple majority vote, but if he vetoed them a second time, it would take a two-thirds majority to override him.
While the cuts were vast, they did somehow manage to miss some hot targets. No cuts were made in funding to programs in Mississippi, the home of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, nor in Alaska nor Louisiana, the respective homes of Senate and House appropriations committee chairmen Ted Stevens and Bob Livingston.
Many in Congress pointed out the fact that the vetoed projects were not pork projects, but instead were on the Pentagon's long-term list of wants and needs which would require funding in the next few years anyhow.
"This was an arbitrary political decision to make the president look good," said Stevens. "This is not what the line-item veto was intended for."
Not all Republicans were critical. "After careful review, I believe the president's list of items on which to use the line-item veto is fair and balanced," said Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Some actually see the cuts in the defense bill -- the first of 13 appropriations bills to get passed -- as a shot across the bow. "This is not about money, it's about power," said Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. "I suppose this is the administration using the line-item veto in order to gain additional leverage on other bills."
In Other News:
Tuesday Oct. 7, 1997
Outrage Consumes Senate Fund-Raising Hearings
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