Why have US Presidents not been given the power of line item vetoes?

  • I have often wondered why there are so many bills that are massive and incredibly complex passed through the Legislative branch. Why are bills stacked together and mashed up with a variety sections altogether rather than passed separately as small, easy to understand bills? Doesn't it seem as though they could get more done that way, and have less influence from crooked lobbyists trying to pack big bills with their own two cents?

    I admit that I am not very well informed on this subject, but I just read Ronald Reagan's autobiography and I just felt like he made so many great points on this subject. I also read on Wikipedia that other Presidents, both Democrat and Republican have asked for the same thing.

    Presidents of the United States have repeatedly asked the Congress to give them a line-item veto power. According to Louis Fisher in The Politics of Shared Power, Ronald Reagan said to Congress in his 1986 State of the Union address, "Tonight I ask you to give me what forty-three governors have: Give me a line-item veto this year. Give me the authority to veto waste, and I'll take the responsibility, I'll make the cuts, I'll take the heat." Bill Clinton echoed the request in his State of the Union address in 1995.

    Doesn't it just seem like a good common sense idea, or am I missing something?

    The rest of that paragraph on Wikipedia seems to answer your question pretty conclusively.

    Thanks for that "Very Useful" comment. I suppose that I hadn't thought that I should just settle with the one viewpoint portrayed in the Wikipedia article rather than consulting this site for other perspectives.

    @Micheal_Ulferts If you look at the edit history on that Wikipedia page you can see that there were several contributors, not to mention citations, so it isn't exactly a single viewpoint.

    So because the one explanation on Wikipedia was edited/created by multiple people I should have refrained from creating this post and used that article as my basis of understanding? These are not constructive comments in my opinion. Please see the Stack Exchange section on comments: https://stackoverflow.com/help/privileges/comment

    Example: Congress made a compromise: I want A, you want B. I would support your B if you will support my A. So we have votes to fund both. Now with line item veto, your item B was vetoed but my A stays. How do you like the compromise now?

    It's not "one viewpoint in Wikipedia". Just because it's written in Wikipedia does not mean that it's not the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States.

    @Micheal_Ulferts: Facts are not subject to opinion, consensus, revocation, fad, polls to determine their veracity, or the whims of the great unwashed masses. They are, stated plainly, facts. In the vernacular of software development, they are *immutable.* It is the mental illness of our times that facts are believed to be somehow negotiable.

    In addition, facts have the novel quality of being *verifiable;* see https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/524/417/. It doesn't take much deduction to figure out the fundamental answer to your seminal question: *it would require an amendment to the United States Constitution.*

    To get a feel for how difficult it is to do this, consider that the last ratified amendment to the Constitution (the 27th) was submitted by Congress to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789. It was finally ratified on May 5, 1992 ***202 years later.***

    Your first question is very different from the rest of this post and probably deserves its own post: *"Why are bills stacked together and mashed up with a variety sections altogether rather than passed separately as small, easy to understand bills? Doesn't it seem as though they could get more done that way, and have less influence from crooked lobbyists trying to pack big bills with their own two cents?"* This would be wonderful.

    It is easy to talk about "crooked lobbyists." However, for every cause that is important to you there are people who view it as a narrow special interest. If you paid someone to represent you in Congress, that person would be a "crooked lobbyist."

    @RobertHarvey: Sorry, but facts are *not* necessarily verifiable. Just for example: "The Reimann hypothesis is true.", "The Reimann hypothesis is false." The hypothesis is stated quite clearly so there's no middle ground--it's either true or false. Thus one of the statements I've made *must* be a fact--but I can't verify which one (and I doubt you can either, but if you can, congratulations).

    @JerryCoffin: From Wikipedia: *"A fact is something that is postulated to have occurred or to be correct. The usual test for a statement of fact is **verifiability** —that is, whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to **experience.**"*

    @RobertHarvey: Are you honestly saying that you believe the Reimann hypothesis in neither true nor false because accepting that it must be one or the other would prove that some Wikipedia article was imperfect?

  • PoloHoleSet

    PoloHoleSet Correct answer

    4 years ago

    It's a good idea if you think the President should have much stronger powers than other branches, and that legislative compromise should be eliminated, as part of the system, altogether.

    As much as we hate the way legislation is bundled, it is, quite often the way to work compromise into the system. I don't vote for measure "A", but I want measure "B", which measure "A" proponents oppose. In both cases, our support for our causes outweighs the aversion for the others' proposal, so they get bundled together.

    If the President has the power to pick off just the pieces he doesn't like, it subverts the intent of the legislation, and, some may argue, basically allows the President to craft legislation (since vetoes are incredibly difficult to override), which is supposed to be the power of Congress. Congress is supposed to write the laws, the president approves them and is in charge of execution of those laws. The President is not supposed to be able to write laws, and this fine editing, some argue, basically gives him/her that power.

    If the party or parties not aligned with the President don't have veto-overriding majorities, then they know that anything they want stands a strong chance of being edited out, and then there's no reason for them to support or not obstruct items on the President or his party's agenda.

    Also, keep in mind, in general, this gives the President huge, specific, granular power over crafting budgets and legislation. Just as parties within Congress generally have to bargain and compromise, so do the different branches of government. This power greatly skews the balance of power.

    It's very easy to veto just a few items you don't like, but when the decision gets made on allowing your own desired initiatives to go through, but only if some opposition items are attached, then the use of the veto becomes much less frequent and only for "big deal" items. The norm is discussion and compromise when that is in place, which, probably, is what the Founders envisioned.

    On a more abstract scale, the Founders created what is supposed to be, on the surface of it, three co-equal branches of government in this system of checks and balances. The branch that is addressed first in the Constitution is the Legislative branch. Some Constitutional scholars argue that this is intentional, and the Founders wanted Congress to be "first among equals." Giving the President that much power and leverage would undermine that intent.

    Does Congress Want to Govern? | RealClearPolicy

    There's a reason why founding father James Madison called Congress "the first branch" of government...... It's no accident that the legislative branch is described in Article I of the Constitution, or that Article I is longer than the other six articles, combined.

    What is Congress? - Shmoop

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