Instead of a Line-Item Veto
For one year in the 1990s, Americans lived under a particular presidential power, the line-item veto. That single year, Bill Clinton used that veto 82 times for $2 billion in savings. But the Supreme Court, noting the balance of powers, vetoed, so to speak, that very special and very particular veto power.
Now, a lot of people want it back, including both major party presidential candidates. John Kerry even has a scheme that he says will work around the Court’s objection. But there’s an easier way. No need for a new law likely to be corralled through the maze of judicial review. Why not just repeal an old one?
From Jefferson to Nixon, presidents regularly exercised something more powerful than a line-item veto, something called “impoundment.” Jefferson first impounded in 1801, when he refused to spend $50,000 in appropriated funds for Navy gunboats. Mr. Nixon used impoundment extensively to battle runaway spending. But so weakened by his criminal scandals, Nixon signed the very bill that took away his office’s traditional and apparently quite constitutional power.
So let’s bring back impoundment: repeal the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. It was a bad act all ’round. In addition to taking away the president’s unilateral power not to spend money, it also gave our representatives an easy way to lie about increases in spending, calling lesser increases “cuts.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.