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Clinton v. City of New York

Citation. 524 U.S. 417 (1998)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act which gave the President the power to cancel certain types of provisions of enacted laws. Using this power, the President canceled three provisions of two laws.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Under the Presentment Clause, Congress cannot authorize the President to cancel provisions of duly enacted laws.


Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act, which gave the President the power to cancel three categories of provisions that have been passed into law: any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or any limited tax benefit. Using this power, President Clinton canceled Section 4722(c) of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and two provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.


Did the cancellation procedures set forth in the Line Item Veto Act violate the Presentment Clause?


Yes, the cancellation procedures set forth in the Line Item Veto Act violated the Presentment Clause.


Justice Scalia (concurring in part and dissenting in part)

Justice Scalia argues that the issue in the case implicates the Doctrine of Unconstitutional Delegation of Legislative Authority (“the doctrine”), not the Presentment Clause. According to Justice Scalia, the doctrine establishes that Congressional authorizations of executive power violate the separation of powers when they go too far. Under this doctrine, the issue in this case is whether Congress’ authorization of the cancellation power gives the President a power that is historically and traditionally shown to lie solely with Congress. Justice Scalia argues that it does not, because the cancellation power is similar to the discretionary power to spend money on particular items, which Congress has historically granted to the President.


The Court held that the President’s cancellations under the Line Item Veto Act were repeals or amendments, which is beyond his authority as per the Presentment Clause. The Supreme Court cited its precedent that established that statues can only be enacted in accord with finely wrought and exhaustive procedure, INS v. Chadha, which the Supreme Court found lacking in the President’s cancellations.

The Government made three arguments to suggest that the cancellations were not repeals or amendments. First, the Government argued that the canceled items retained a budgetary effect by preventing the government from spending the savings that resulted from the cancellation. the Supreme Court rejected this argument, because the cancellations still rendered the canceled items completely inoperative.

The Government next argued that the cancellations were simply exercises of the President’s discretionary authority under the Balanced Budget Act and the Taxpayer Relief Act, read in light of the Line Item Veto Act. This argument relied on Field v. Clark, in which the Supreme Court upheld the Tariff Act of 1890, which gave the President the power to suspend import duty exemptions for certain goods. The Court held that the Line Item Veto Act was not analogous to the Tariff Act of 1890, in part because the Tariff Act involved foreign affairs, and the President has broader discretion in that arena. United States v. Curtiss-Wright.

The Government’s final argument was that the cancellation authority was no greater than traditional executive authority to decline to spend appropriated funds. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that the cancellation power was unique in that it gave the President the unprecedented power to change the text of enacted statutes.

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