Should the U.S. president have line-item veto power

The line item veto is the authority of the president to reverse or even cancel certain provisions of the bill which are related to budget, without vetoing the whole legislative package. These nullifications or cancellations can be subjected to legislative override. In the United States, the power is given to most state governors. There are just about seven states which lack this veto. Although this power is not included in the constitutions, it was given to the president of the confederate states at the time of the American civil war in 1861. The power allowed the confederate president to approve or disapprove provisions in the bill with the disapprovals being returned to the house for reconsideration and even override. Presidents of the United States have persistently requested the congress to grant them veto power. It started with President Ronald Reagan in 1986 at the state of the union address where he requested the congress to grant him the power. Bill Clinton also repeated the same request in 1995 at the state union address. In 1996, the president was granted this power in line with item line veto act of 1996 which was enacted by the congress with the aim of controlling pork barrel spending which was focused on regions instead of the whole nation. President bill Clinton used the power 82 times in 11 bills which were derived from the federal budget (Garrett, para. 4).

In 1998, the United States district court judge ruled that one-sided change of some parts of the law was against the constitution of the country. The ruling was later on supported by the United States Supreme Court in a case which was filed by the New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani against President Bill Clinton. The congress has periodically considered granting the president line item veto power since the court ruled against it. Although this power was overruled by the Supreme Court in 1998, President George W. Bush revisited the matter by requesting the congress to enact the law that would ensure return of the power to the president. He made the proposal at the state of the union address in 2006 and later on sent the legislative proposal to the congress on March 6, 2006 requesting for its faster enactment. The proposal was also introduced by a group of three people namely senator Bill Frist, senator John McCain, and the republican whip senator Mitch McConnell. The director of the office of management and budget gave a press conference on the same matter saying that the act will grant power to the president to disapprove unwise spending and put them on hold. He further differentiated this act from the one which was struck by the Supreme Court citing that before the president can act, he will have to seek congressional approval on such line item vetoes. This simply means that for a president to annul previously passed spending, a small majority of the congress is required to support that particular intention (Garrett, para. 8).

With the increasing interest in lowering the federal expenditure, some people have suggested a line item veto for the United States president so as to cut down unnecessary expenditure. The question which should be asked is the effectiveness of line veto in reducing spending. Some people have expressed fears that the act will grant the presidents excess power over government spending as compared to the powers of the congress. Some have even suggested that it would grant the president de facto legislative powers in changing the laws which could result in abuse of the principles of the constitution (Joyce and Reischauer, p. 54).

The act is supported by others who argue that it will make the president responsible for federal spending. It can also be applied in barring the passage of controversial provision changes that have been imposed into the bills by powerful legislators. It can also be used to hold responsible national leaders for the passage of controversial amendments. Even though line item veto has not existed, presidents have been pushed to sign controversial bills into law even without their support for such bills (Joyce and Reischauer, p. 55).

Line item veto has been in use in the states in the US for quite some time and has proved practical. It has also been applied in Washington and it worked. The power has worked to reduce unnecessary spending. President Bill Clinton used the budget reducing law 82 times to remove wasteful expenditures in approximately 11 budgetary bills. This resulted into about 2 billion savings in a period of five years. Although this sum appears insignificant in a 1.8 trillion annual budget, the economic advisers have cited that for the act to appear effective in controlling unnecessary expenditure, it must be in use for sometimes before the effects could be felt. While assessing the list of programs which were deleted by President Bill Clinton, almost all of them did not serve the interest of the nation. The congress accepted the request of Bill Clinton and granted him the line item veto power which he used wisely to eliminate the budgets of the unnecessary projects. In this case it worked as it was intended therefore it proved necessary (Moore, para. 6).

People feared that the president might abuse this power but this was not the case. There were complaints which were raised on the presidents use of the line item veto power. Senate appropriations committee chairman Ted Stevens claimed that Clintons actions in relation to line item veto was abuse of power. Others also complained that the president used the power to intimidate and threaten the congress. As much as the power proved necessary, there was one incident where the administration purportedly decided to remove a threatened line item veto of a 1.5 million cemetery enlargement in Rep. This case served as an example of abuse of power. Apart from this single case, there was no any other complaint of abuse of power by the administration.  In addition, most of the line items deleted were in Democratic districts which further indicate that the president did not act impartially (Joyce and Reischauer, p. 60).

Although the powers were used properly, the administration failed to give a proper explanation why some projects were deleted while others left. Line item veto can only function effectively if the president creates logical and strict methods and then applies the power in relation to the set standards. The president used the power sparingly because he cancelled some projects and left some which were also unnecessary and deserved to be cancelled. Example of such projects is Energy and Water bill of 1998.  If the criteria he used in applying the veto power was that the project should be funded at the local level or the projects whose cost surpasses the benefits, then the money which could have been saved from such projects would have been higher than that achieved (Kogan, para. 8).

Much work has been done to expose unnecessary spending by the federal government. With the increasing concern in reducing federal spending, there is need to grant the president item line veto power, but the president should also be ready to use the power whenever it is necessary. From the statistics above, it is true that careful use of item line veto power could result into more saving than what was realized. If this power was granted to President Reagan, the national debt might have reduced tremendously.

Other complaint which has been raised in regard to item line veto power is that it redirects the power of budget to the administration. It does not engage into a huge and exceptional power shift to the direction of the white house. It should be viewed as a relatively weak and limited re-establishment of the rightful budgetary powers of the president that were removed from the executive branch of the government by the 1974 Budget Act. The act resulted in removal of the powers of the president to take away funds which were not budgeted for appropriately. The power was exercised by presidents ranging from Thomas Jefferson through Richard Nixon (Joyce and Reischauer, p. 63).

I strongly believe that there is need to enact a constitutional amendment for presidential item line veto power with a two thirds override provision. It is the function of the executive branch of the government to determine whether the money budgeted for by the congress is necessary and serves the interest of the nation. If the power of the president to take away funds which was removed was put back in place, there would be no need for item line veto power. To ensure that the power is balanced between the executive and the legislature, the item veto will require the congress to attain two thirds supports in both houses to get funding for the program being questioned. This will assure the president that the program in question is highly supported. The line item veto should be given to presidents because it has more benefits. There is much evidence support the use of item line veto. It ensures that unnecessary spending which do no benefit tax payers is deleted.


Post a Comment