A Historic Veto (8/11/97)
More Congressional Grumbling On Line-Item Veto
Pentagon says it provided inaccurate info to Clinton
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 10) -- An admission by the Pentagon that it provided President Bill Clinton with bad data on some military construction projects he later vetoed has stirred new opposition in Congress to the line-item veto.
When Clinton earlier this week penciled out 38 military construction projects to save $287 million, some members of Congress objected. But the grumbling has grown with word that some of the information on which the president based his decisions was erroneous.
According to a Washington Post report, for about a half dozen of the 38 vetoed construction projects, the administration was told that design work had not begun and because of that, construction would not begin in FY '98 even if the money was available. In fact, engineering work has begun on some of the projects, Pentagon officials now say.
With that, some members of the Senate Appropriations Committee say that Clinton over-used the line-item veto to strike out worthy projects from the $9.2 billion bill.
On the other hand, some senators also admit the Senate has no one to blame but itself for the situation. The Senate voted 69-31 to give the president line-item veto authority, and Clinton is the first president to have the power to remove individual items from spending bills.
"It's as if we woke up one day and gave ourselves a punch in the nose," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who voted against the line-item veto. "It's not a matter of what the president did, it's what we did to ourselves."
"Let's not wait for the Supreme Court. Let's do something courageous and say we were wrong," said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Others, though, said it was the way Clinton was using his new power that they don't like. "We're dealing with a raw abuse of power," said Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who had supported the line-item veto.
Stevens vowed revenge. "I'd hate to be a presidential nominee waiting for confirmation right now," he said. "We are not all eunuchs."
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he had expected give and take between Clinton and lawmakers to avoid veto battles. But Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said the White House wants leverage to demand cooperation from members in order to save individual spending items.
Byrd, a longtime opponent of the line-item veto, said, "I have railed against this abomination, this gimmick, this legislative end-run around the Constitution. ... I did not vote for this horror, and I wonder how some members who did make the very unwise choice to support it are feeling now that their legislative initiatives have felt the line-item meat cleaver."
Said Sen. Robert Bennett, who campaigned for office on the issue, "I feel like I need to eat a little crow."
The military construction projects may be only the first points of contention. The administration also is considering cuts in the $248 billion defense appropriations bill.
In Other News:
Friday Oct. 10, 1997
Clinton Again Vetoes Abortion Ban
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