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Clinton v. City of New York

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Brief Fact Summary.

New York City and some private organizations challenged the President’s act of cancelling Medicaid program.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In cancelling portions of bills, the President must consider that it will reduce the federal budget deficit, not impair any essential government functions and not harm the national interest.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Indeed, in an increasingly complex society Congress obviously could not perform its functions if it were obligated to find all the facts subsidiary to the basic conclusions which support the defined legislative policy.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

IRaines v. Byrd held that Members of Congress did not have standing to maintain a constitutional challenge to the Line Items Veto Act because they had not alleged a sufficiently concrete injury. Two months later, President Clinton exercised his authority under that Act by cancelling the Balanced Budget Act, which waived the Federal Government’s statutory right to recoupment of as much as $2.6 billion in taxes that the State of New York had levied against Medicaid providers. Appellees, claiming they had been injured, sued the President challenging the cancellations. The Line Item Veto Act gives the President the power to cancel in whole three types of provisions that have been signed into law: any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, and any limited tax benefit.

Issue.

Does the President have the power to cancel portions of bills passed by Congress?

Held.

No, the President may not cancel portions of the bills passed by Congress. The President does not have the power under the Constitution to cancel a bill. He may only veto such a bill under the Constitution. This is because vetoing a bill is subject to being overridden by a two-thirds vote in each House  while cancellation of a bill may be done solely by the President without any checks from other branches.

Dissent.

Justice Breyer

When the President cancelled the two appropriation measures, he did not repeal any law nor did he amend any law. He simply followed the law, leaving the statutes, as they are literally written. One could not say that a President who prevents the deeming language from having legal force or effect has either repealed or amended a particular statute. Rather the President has followed the law to the letter. He has exercised the power it explicitly delegates to him. He has executed the law, not repealed it.

Concurrence.

Justice Scalia

Had the Line Item Veto Act authorized the President to decline to spend any item of spending contained in the Balanced Budget Act, the authorization would have been constitutional. What the Line Item Veto Act does is, however, different. But the difference does not relate to the technicalities of the Constitution. The President’s action it authorizes is not a line-item veto and thus not offend the Constitution. Insofar as the substance of that action is concerned, it is no different from what Congress has permitted the President to do since the formation of the Union.

Discussion.

Repeal of statutes by the President must conform with Article I, which authorizes the President to enact, amend or repeal statutes but only before it becomes a law. After a bill passes both Houses of Congress, it must be presented to the President, who will have the opportunity to approve, disapprove, or return for revision. President Clinton, however, cancelled the bill, which occurred after the bill became the law. Thus, his action goes against the Constitution. Moreover, the Government’s contention – that the President’s authority to cancel new direct spending and tax benefit items is no greater than his traditional authority to decline to spend appropriated funds – is not persuasive. Congress has given the Executive broad discretion over the expenditure of appropriate funds.


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