Two of Congress’ most vehement foes of the line-item veto began a long-shot effort Friday to repeal the power that lawmakers gave President Clinton just last year.
Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., introduced a one-page bill repealing the president’s ability to kill individual projects in legislation without vetoing the entire measure.
“Our government is operating under an unconstitutional act,” Byrd said. “I am attempting to restore the kind of government, with its separation of powers and checks and balances, that the American people have enjoyed for over 200 years.”
“In the history of relations between the Congress and the presidency there has never been an issue equal in importance to the constitutional challenge we face with the line-item veto act,” Moynihan said.
The bill was introduced at a time when legislators are becoming increasingly unhappy with the line-item vetoes Clinton has cast so far. Since the power took effect this year, he has used it 63 times on six bills, mostly killing defense, water and other projects in lawmakers’ home districts.
The line-item veto was a prominent part of the Contract With America agenda that Republicans brought with them when they took control of Congress in 1995. The measure was approved by the House, 232-177, and by the Senate, 69-31, and it seems unlikely that lawmakers, particularly Republicans, will be willing to reverse their votes so soon.
Moynihan and Byrd participated in an unsuccessful federal suit aimed at overturning the law earlier this year. Three new lawsuits have since been filed, and the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by next summer.
Similar legislation was introduced in the House Oct. 9 by Rep. David Skaggs, D-Colo.