Recent History of the Line-Item Veto
A rescission bill rescinds or cancels, in whole or part, budget authority previously granted by Congress to reduce spending or because budget authority is no longer needed. Under current law, rescissions proposed by the president must be transmitted in a special message to Congress. Under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act (ICA; P.L. 93-344), Congress must complete action on a rescission bill within 45 days of continuous session after receipt of the proposal or else the budget authority must be made available for obligation.
Budget rules governing rescissions stipulate that if the Appropriations Committee does not act on rescissions submitted by the president within 25 days of continuous session, one-fifth of the members of the House can call for discharge of the bill from committee. (House rules for other bills require a waiting period of 30 days and that a majority of members sign a discharge petition.)
The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was the congressional response to the Nixon Administration's fondness for rescinding or deferring budget authority previously approved by Congress. This confrontation intensified in the 92nd and 93rd Congresses as President Nixon used the impoundment tool to reorder national priorities and alter programs supported by lawmakers. In the ICA, Congress required the president to inform it of all proposed rescissions and deferrals and submit specific information regarding each proposal. The original provisions of the ICA allowed a deferral to take effect unless either the House or the Senate took action to disapprove it -- effectively providing for a one-house veto. This procedure was invalidated by the 1983 Supreme Court decision in I.N.S. v. Chadha. In 1986, a federal district court ruled that the president's deferral authority under ICA was no longer available, since it was inextricably linked to the one-house veto provision in the law. The lower court decision was upheld by the appeals court in 1987. Congress responded to these rulings with the Balanced Budget Affirmation Act (P.L. 100-119), which did away with policy-based deferrals and amended the ICA to comply with the court's decision.
The current debate on presidential authority arises out of the fact that presidents can veto appropriations bills in their entirety but not in part. Supporters of the line-item veto argue that the president should be able to selectively weed out wasteful pork-barrel spending in an otherwise good bill. This Congress, over 20 line-item veto bills have been introduced. The House also has twice passed so-called "expedited rescissions" legislation (H.R. 1578 and H.R. 4600), which require presidential rescissions to be approved by Congress under accelerated committee and floor procedures. Another version of the line-item veto, considered as an amendment to these bills, is the "enhanced rescission" proposal, which forces Congress to pass a disapproval bill to block proposed presidential cuts. A constitutional line- item veto or a stand-alone legislative line-item veto has never been considered by the House -- all line-item veto proposals have been considered as amendments to other bills, and have either failed or been dropped from the final version of the legislation. Forty-three of the nation's governors have a line-item veto authority of some sort.
Line-Item Veto Proposal
The bill gives the president a permanent legislative line-item veto. Under this procedure, the president could strike any appropriation or targeted tax provision (a provision that provides special treatment to a particular taxpayer or limited class of taxpayers) in any bill. The president is required to submit his rescission proposal within 20 calendar days (not including weekends or holidays) after Congress finally passes a bill or resolution and must submit a separate rescission proposal for each piece of legislation. The president's proposed rescissions are to take effect unless Congress disapproves them in an up or down vote within 20 days after receipt of the proposal. If the president vetoes the disapproval bill, Congress would have to override it by a two-thirds vote.
The bill also sets forth the procedures for Senate consideration of a proposed rescission, including limiting debate time on a disapproval bill to 10 hours.
Finally, The bill limits a disapproval bill to only those matters relating to the proposed rescissions transmitted by the president and stipulates that a disapproval bill is unamendable. These provisions, however, are made in accordance with House rules and may be waived by the Rules Committee at any point.
This bill is identical to the Michel/Solomon amendment offered during House consideration of H.R. 4600, the Expedited Rescissions Act of 1994. The amendment was rejected 205-218 on July 14, 1994 (Roll Call #327).
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