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Politics: Strike Out the Line Item Veto

Updated on December 11, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

America's Founding Fathers

Founding Fathers
Founding Fathers

Line Item Veto Still in Question

The U.S. Supreme Court did not say the line-item veto is constitutional when it declined to take up the issue recently; it merely said it could not take up the case until the issue is properly brought before it; that is, by someone with proper "standing."

Sure, President Clinton can go ahead and use the line-item veto, as he said he would, but that would be unwise because, almost certainly, any such action would be ruled unconstitutional when the court revisits the matter. I'd prefer not to have to witness the chaos that would accompany the unraveling of such unconstitutional (actions.)

Separation of Powers

The existence of the separation of powers that our founding fathers strived so hard to achieve is a major reason the Constitution has worked so well for more than 200 years. Rewriting it now to allow the executive, judicial and legislative branches to fall out of balance could only lead to disaster.

The Constitution gives the House the power of the purse, and the procedure for bills to become law is made clear: Action by Congress before presentation to the president for his signature.

Use of a line-item veto, because it revises the legislation before the president adds his signature, would be equivalent to participation in the drafting of the bill.

Obviously Unconstitutional

This procedure would allow the president to help draft the law and then sign it. It's not a great deal different from the same person or body acting as both judge and jury. Obviously, it is not constitutional.

Today's political leaders should look long and hard before tinkering with the Constitution. Our founding fathers were ordinary men, of course, but, at the same time, they were extraordinary thinkers and politicians. If it were not for their intelligence and wisdom, as exemplified by the government they created, where would we be today?

The writers of the Constitution not only reinforced the document with the Bill of Rights, but they had the foresight to make provision for the inevitable changes they knew would someday be required. Our journeys into outer space and the incredible development of technology could not have been imagined 200 years ago.

Easy Solutions Inadvisable

As we prepare to enter the 21st Century, our country, as the world's acknowledged leader, must avoid what appear to be easy solutions to complicated problems. Any action that threatens the long-term stability of the United States, and, therefore, the world, should not be taken merely for temporary political advantage.

The line-item veto is one of those issues that, without long and careful consideration, sounds great: Let the president strike out all the fat from the budgets! But, like the proposals for an Equal Rights Amendment and a Balanced Budget Amendment, a closer look reveals the truth: These ideas create more problems than they solve.

President Clinton apparently didn't think this one through, tempting as it may be, politically, to take advantage of the moment. I'm sure he'll eventually do as his oath of office requires: Defend the Constitution!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on Aug. 2, 1997. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

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President Clinton Uses Line Item Veto for the First Time


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    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Bob, each Supreme Court justice has his own take on how to interpret the Constitution, and I'm afraid there's no way of getting around that. At the moment the court leans toward the conservatives with four liberal-leaning justices and five conservatives, including Justice Kennedy, who appears to be the swing vote. We need to avoid any Constitutional conventions to prevent changes that will cause the loss of our existing rights. The line-item veto might cut down on the pork, but it would usher in a whole new -- and bigger -- problem than we already have (giving the president legislative powers even greater than those of Congress!)

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      Bob 10 years ago

      Bill.The politicians have been messing around with the Constitution for quite some time now. Take Teddy Kennedy. In one breath he'll sayb it's a living document and Judge Bork should not be appointed to the bench because he interpets it as it was written ,then when Clinton gets impeached , Teddy says can't do it because its not in the Comstitution. Seems politicians want to interpet the Constitution in whatever way fits their needs. As far as the line item veto.. It might cut down on some of the useless pork that put into the budgets.