The era of federal budget deficits dates, I believe, from the Supreme Court’s Nixon-era holding that the practice of “impoundment” by the executive branch–simply declining to spend money appropriated by Congress–is unconstitutional. Ever since, reformers have urged that the President, like almost all governors, have a line-item veto. This would allow the President to veto specific appropriations without vetoing an entire budget bill. The Associated Press recounts the tangled history of the line item veto:
Both Republican and Democratic presidents have sought the power to eliminate a single item in a spending or tax bill without killing the entire measure.
President Clinton got that wish in 1996, when the new reform-minded Republican majority in the House helped pass a line-item veto law. Two years later, the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional because it allowed the president to single-handedly amend laws passed by Congress.
“Congress gave the president the line-item veto in 1996, but because of problems with the way the law was written, the Supreme Court struck it down,” Bush said. “That should not be the end of the story.”
The AP assures us that the current line-item veto proposal is constitutional. Earlier today, the White House sent out an email that, among other things, explained why the current proposal is different from the law that was invalidated:
In its 1998 ruling striking down the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, the Supreme Court concluded that the Act