As the conservative revenge for the Obama Administration, and the 111th Congress, brews in America, I am hearing more and more talk of a constitutional amendment for “Line Item Veto” power for the President.
It seems like a good idea at first, because we all know how things get done in Washington, Representatives and Senators buy votes for terrible legislation by trading earmarks to bring money back to their states and districts, which helps them buy votes and get re-elected. A way to eliminate that practice seems priceless to many people, and line item veto promises to do it.
For those unaware, currently when a bill is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill goes to the President and he may sign it into law or veto it and send the bill back to the House of Congress from which it originated with his comments. Line Item Veto would allow the president to veto individual line items or sections of a bill, without sending it back to Congress.
The current health care debate gives us great examples of both the good and bad of this power.
On the good side, if President Obama had line item veto power, he could veto the deal Senator Ben Nelson made for his vote, a provision exempting his state from paying the usual share of costs for new Medicaid patients, a deal critics have dubbed the Cornhusker Kickback and is expected to cost the federal government $100 million over 10 years. Or Mary Landrieu’s $300 Million “Louisiana Purchase” Which she has actually bragged about saying “I am not going to be defensive. And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix”. Or Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s $100 Million earmark for a health care facility in his state. So right there, if you trust the President to do so, could have saved us $500 Million.
On the other hand, we have the amendment which prohibits taxpayer funded abortions in the bill, which the President could just as easily veto before passing the bill into law, as well as language which would deny coverage to illegal immigrants.
To keep up my Libertarian habit of attacking Congress and the President in a bipartisan fashion, we wouldn’t have been any better off with this power in the hands of President Bush. The little bit of restraint left in the Patriot act and other Orwellian nightmare legislation passed under his watch could have been removed by line item veto under his watch as well.
Presidents have long been in the habit of attempting to mimic line item veto power, and to usurp legislative authority through the practice of “Signing Statements” essentially saying “I interpret this that way, I don’t think I will obey this law, war is peace, and obedience is freedom” President Obama campaigned against this practice, but he is using it today as well. But the Supreme Court has not addressed this issue entirely yet, except to ignore such a statement by President George W. Bush in a 2006 case known as Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
At the end of the day, putting any more power in the hands of the President is just a bad idea. Our system of checks and balances has been almost completely dismantled both by unconstitutional means (too many to list),and bad constitutional amendments like the 12th Amendment, which allows the President to pick his Vice President instead of the Vice President being the candidate with the second most votes like it was prior, the 16th Amendment, which creates the IRS, and the 17th Amendment which takes representation in the Senate away from the State Legislatures.
If the President doesn’t want to sign a bad bill, then the President doesn’t have to sign the bill, and he shouldn’t sign the bill. So much has been done to try to help Washington “Get Things Done” as if that were a good thing. I don’t want Washington getting things done. The Constitution says Congress shall meet at least once a year, but they are working nights, weekends, and holidays to get things done. This should give you a pretty good clue they are getting a lot more done than they were ever supposed to!
Line Item Veto is dangerous, please oppose it and make sure candidates you support also oppose it, this would require a Constitutional Amendment, so make sure to ask your state legislatures about their opinions on it too, not just your Congressman.
If we’re going to amend the Constitution, let’s take power away from Washington by repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments, instead of giving it more with Line Item Veto.