Power Hungry

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

From the Associated Press:

Six years after the Supreme Court took away the president's (Clinton's) ability to veto specific parts of legislation, President Bush is asking Congress to bring back the line-item veto to let him make precision strikes against projects and tax provisions he doesn't like.
There is something both very good and very bad about the line-item veto. At its best, it allows the president to cut out from important policy unnecessary pork baked into its language. President Clinton couldn't have been any giddier with his veto power; using the pen 82 times to cut out smaller and specific projects from larger spending bills. While the Republican-controlled Congress overrode 38 of his vetoes, Clinton managed to save $2 billion.

But the very, very, very bad thing about the line-item veto is that it completely negates the Constitution's delegation of the 'power of the purse' to Congress. The line-item veto, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court quickly after Clinton began using it, allows the president unilateral policy making authority which is a major violation of the important 'check' Congress has over the president. When a bill passes his desk, he must either sign it or reject the whole thing. There is no middle ground. There is nothing he can sign into law that hasn't first passed through Congress.

At a news conference, President Bush said he wanted a line-item veto that "passed constitutional muster," explaining it would help him work with lawmakers "to make sure that we're able to maintain budget discipline."

But if this new line-item veto is anything like the one Clinton once used, then pass constitutional muster it doesn't, not even close. If Mr. Bush wants to maintain budget discipline he should communicate effectively with Congress and threaten to veto entire bills that contain unnecessary pork and waste spending. Let's not continue abusing the Constitution. Hear that, presidential-hopeful Mr. Schwarzenegger?