|Line Item Veto Debate|
Reps. Solomon and Skaggs
June 20, 1997
in this forum:
Should the Court even rule on this case? What is the experience in the states with L.I.V.s? Why do we need a line item veto now? Would the LIV have helped pass the disaster relief bill? Wasn't it Congress' decision to give the President this veto? Isn't this an example of Congress not taking responsibility for its own duties?
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A question from Connie Fiedler of Washington, DC:
I understand that the Supreme Court justices, in their questioning during oral argument, spent most of the time on the issue of the members' rights to sue (standing). What do you think the likelihood is that the Court will even rule on the MERITS of the issue?
Rep. Solomon responds:
In the past, the Supreme Court has refrained from directly ruling on the issue of whether a Member of Congress has standing to seek a remedy in the judicial system as a result of some legislative action. It is true that the plaintiffs (Members of the House and Senate) in the line item veto case argued that as a result of this new law, the value of their votes on spending measures would be "watered down" and become less meaningful. As a result of this line of argument the justices of the Supreme Court did spend an great deal of time questioning whether or not these Members had the right under the Constitution to seek a remedy in the Supreme Court of primarily a legislative problem.
Furthermore, the President has not yet been able to exercise this new authority since the Federal District Court of D.C. issued an injunction against the President's use of it prior to such an opportunity even being presented to the President. Since the plaintiffs have also challenged the constitutionality of the line item veto, the fact that this new authority has never even remotely had the possibility of being utilized may play into some of the justices' decisions. I believe the court would be on solid ground to decide this case on the question of Member's standing and leave the question of constitutionality to another case after the President has actually attempted to use it.
Rep. Skaggs responds:
It's impossible to predict whether the Supreme Court will rule on the merits of the case. If it does, I'm confident it will find the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional, as did the federal district court that first heard the case. The district court ruled that the Representatives and Senators who are plaintiffs in the case (including me) have legal standing to challenge the law's constitutionality because the law already interferes with our constitutional responsibilities and powers to enact federal laws.
If the Line Item Veto Act were in effect -- it's not, since the district court found it unconstitutional -- when the Congress passes an appropriations or tax bill, that bill would actually be just a kind of "menu" -- a list of optional items, from which the President could pick and choose. This effectively gives the participation of the Congress. That's unconstitutional, the district court held, because it gives the President lawmaking authority that the Constitution reserves to the Congress.
The district court was right, and I expect that the Supreme Court will agree and will save the Congress from this foolish attempt to give away some of its most important responsibilities and powers.