This case consolidates 2 separate challenges to the constitutionality of 2 line-item veto’s made by President Clinton under the Line Item Veto Act.
Line-item veto’s violate the Presentment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Legislation that passes both houses of Congress must either be entirely approved or rejected by the President.
Pursuant to the Act, the President exercised his “line-item veto” to nullify the two provisions involved in this case: (1) a section of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that waived the federal government’s statutory authority to seek recoupment of as much as $2.6 billion in taxes that New York had levied against Medicare providers and (2) a section of the Taxpayers Relief Act of 1997, which authorized favorable tax treatment of certain parties selling food processing facilities to farmers’ cooperatives.
Are line-item veto’s by the President unconstitutional?
Yes, line-item vetos by the President are unconstitutional.
There is no difference between Congress’ authorizing the President to cancel a spending item and Congress’ authorizing money to be spent on a particular item at the President’s discretion. Yet, the Court rules that the former is unconstitutional, whereas the latter has been done since the nation’s founding.
The Constitution’s structure requires a stability which transcends the convenience of the moment. Also, liberty is always at stake when one or more of the branches seek to transgress the separation of powers.
Although the Constitution expressly authorizes the President to play a role in the process of enacting statutes, it is silent on the subject of unilateral Presidential action that either repeals or amends parts of duly enacted statutes. As such, line-item veto’s impermissibly give the President the power to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of statutes that have been duly passed by Congress, in violation of Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution (the Presentment Clause).