Line-Item Veto

The Line Item Veto Act and the Limits of Executive Power

Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Group Newsletter - Volume 1, Issue 2, Spring 1997
Timothy E. Flanigan August 12, 2009
In the course of the last twenty years, Congress has adopted a series of procedures intended to bring the federal budget deficit under control. Each of these schemes has in common a profoundly pessimistic view of the ability of Congress and the Executive to balance the budget the old fashioned way, i.e., by having Congress vote a balanced budget or by having the President veto budget-busting bills as they are presented to him. Instead, these schemes have sought to take the issue of deficit reduction out of the normal political process and create instead procedural devices to "force" a balanced budget. The problem with each of these devices is that they are, by their nature as legislative acts, not binding on the Congress that created them, let alone future Congresses. They are waivable by a simple legislative act, and past Congresses have found it all too easy to waive them. These special procedures calls to mind a drunk who, resolving to go on the wagon, locks his liquor cabinet and confidently sticks the key in his vest pocket. His sobriety will last only until the next time he feels the need for refreshment.