Monday, March 6

Line Item Veto Proposal Deserves Speedy Death

Over here at TSJ, I like to stay away from national politics. For the most part, I find them to be irrelevant and a distraction from real issues. However, today, the following tidbit arrived in my email box. This exceedingly bad and politically tone-deaf action even rose up my ire enough to post:

President Submits Line Item Veto Legislation to Congress
“Today, I'm sending Congress legislation that will meet standards and give me the authority to strip special spending and earmarks out of a bill, and then send them back to Congress for an up or down vote. By passing this version of the line item veto, the administration will work with the Congress to reduce wasteful spending, reduce the budget deficit, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” President Bush, March 6, 2006.
Today's Presidential Action:
Ø Legislative Line Item Veto Act: Special, fast-track procedures would be created to guarantee an up-or-down vote by simple majority in Congress on a proposal by the President to rescind specific spending or tax legislation that has been passed. Leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties, in the House and the Senate, have supported this approach in the past.
The Legislative Line Item Veto Will Help Reduce Earmarks. Giving the President enhanced authority to seek rescission of new spending will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on unjustified earmarks that are not national priorities. Since the Supreme Court struck down the Line Item Veto Act in 1998, the number of earmarks has significantly increased.
The Line Item Veto Has A Long History of Bipartisan Support. At least 11 presidents from both parties have called for the authority to address individual spending items wrapped into larger bills: Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, Chester Arthur, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The governors of 43 of the 50 states already have this authority.
The President’s Proposal Is Fully Consistent with the Constitution. In its 1998 ruling striking down the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, the Supreme Court concluded that the Act “g[ave] the President the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes.” The Legislative Line Item Veto Act does not raise those constitutional issues because the President’s rescission proposals must be enacted by both houses of Congress and signed into law.

This extremely bad idea deserves a speedy death. At a time when the Executive continues to exert more and more power at the expense of the other two constitutional branches of government, the President proposes to take even more power from Congress.

IMO, one of the problems we face today is a legislative branch that is too timid and willing to be steamrolled by a powerful executive. If this passes, I have the feeling that the Framers would be spinning in their graves.

Worse, it would move us farther down the road toward a system of government without checks. PoliSci types like to talk about "a finely crafted system of checks and balances." When it works as it should it acts to gunk up the works of government to the point that only the exceptionally good ideas become law. That, I submit, is an exceptionally good thing. Undivided rule of goverment has made it way to easy to pass laws.

1 comment:

The Raving Norseman said...

The thing I've always found interesting about the line-item-veto debate is that when it's a Republican president asking for it, the Democrats are up in arms over the egregious grab for power. When a Democrat is president, it's a perfectly sensible idea to them --but then the Republicans are foaming at the mouth over it. Oh, well; the Constitution says how old you have to be to be elected to Congress or the presidency, but there are no intellectual requirements.