Line-Item Veto: Worse Than We Thought


Because no budget maneuver is too arcane or seemingly trivial for us to analyze, let’s discuss the line-item veto again. Previously, we’ve argued that giving the president the power to strip out any part of a congressional spending bill he or she didn’t like would invite abuse by the executive branch.

Now the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has their own report on the line-item veto, noting that the line-item veto powers sought by this administration would enable the president to withhold funding for all sorts of programs beyond earmarks—”pork,” in other words. If Bush wanted to, he could withhold funds for months and months from, say, the Education Department, even if Congress doesn’t approve. In his 2006 budget, Bush called for, among other things, a $3.4 billion cut to education, an $866 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, and a $277 million cut from the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress will likely (and sensibly) reject all of these cuts—unless, of course, the president can skirt around Congress.

You’d think this sort of thing would never pass muster with the Supreme Court since it violates the separation of powers in a major way. Still, the idea needs to be stopped. Letting the president basically write legislation on his own would be catastrophic, to put it very mildly.

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