The Veto Power: How Free is the President's Hand?
The American Enterprise, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 58-64, March/April 1991
6 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2007 Last revised: 2 Nov 2009
The line-item veto and the signing statement have received much attention in recent years as a means of controlling federal spending. The reasoning is that if the president has this power he could reject individual lines of spending in large appropriations bills, just as Jefferson Davis was permitted to do under the constitution of the Confederacy. But the campaign to create a line-item veto for the president, either by statute or by constitutional amendment, has been about as successful as the Confederacy itself. Repeatedly since the Civil War, American presidents have asked for this power; it has never been granted. The last attempt was made by President Bush in 1990.
The line-item-veto debate is exhausted. A more profitable line of inquiry is to examine other less sweeping, but more constitutionally sound, means of achieving the results of a line-item veto. Three - the subject veto, constitutional excision, and the presidential-shield veto - offer more promise than the line-item veto for a president seeking greater participation in the making of our laws.
In a largely unnoticed but certainly consequential move, President Bush has repeatedly claimed power of constitutional excision. His bold action will no doubt precipitate a test case, an opportunity for us to rethink the Framers' intended scope of the veto power.
Keywords: Veto, Line-item veto, Presidential Powers
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