When President Donald Trump called on Congress “to give me a line-item veto for all govt spending bills,” the internet didn’t take kindly to the request, and some even likened Trump to a tyrant. He made the statement after expressing his discontent with the legislation. But, Trump isn’t the first president to seek out that power.
Trump signed the spending bill into law on Friday afternoon, but stated, “I saw to Congress: I will NEVER sign another bill like this again,” and called for line-item veto power as a method for preventing “this omnibus situation from ever happening again.”
He isn’t the first president to request line-item veto authority on spending bills.
In 2006, according to a report by Axios, President Bush asked Congress for that ability, and, in 2010, President Obama proposed a line-item veto with the modification that he would have “a limited time after a bill is passed to submit a package of rescissions that must be considered by Congress in straight up or down votes.”
However, such authority was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998.
The ruling was based on the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, brought forth during President Clinton’s administration. Federal District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan stated, “The Line Item Veto Act violates procedural requirements ordained in Article I of the United States Constitution and impermissibly upsets the balance of powers so carefully prescribed by its framers.”
President Clinton managed to remove 82 items from 11 laws while the Line Item Veto Act was in effect, and the Supreme Court’s decision was considered “a major blow to President Clinton and Republican leaders of Congress” at the time it was rendered.
The Supreme Court’s prior ruling makes it unlikely that Trump’s call to reenact line-item veto authority will move forward in a meaningful way.
While certain state governors do have line-item veto authority in their states, this is largely based on state constitutional requirements that a balanced budget is obtained, requiring high-level intervention if a proposed budget is unbalanced. The federal government has no such balanced budget requirement, impacting the justification for requesting that level of authority over spending bills.