House approves bill giving line-item veto to president
WASHINGTON – House Republicans put aside their usual antipathy toward President Barack Obama on Wednesday to give the president, and his successors, the line-item veto, a constitutionally questionable power over the purse that has been sought by presidents of both parties.
A minority of Democrats joined in casting a 254-173 vote in favor of allowing the president to pick out specific items in spending bills for elimination. Currently, the chief executive must sign or veto spending bills in their entirety.
The main opposition came from members of the Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for putting together the annual spending bills. They argued that the bill upsets the constitutional separation of powers balance in favor of the executive branch, and that recent efforts to curtail so-called earmarks in spending bills make the line-item veto unnecessary.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
In 1996, a Republican-controlled Congress succeeded in giving line-item veto authority to another Democratic president, Bill Clinton. He exercised that authority 82 times, and although Congress overrode his veto in 38 instances, the moves saved the government almost $2 billion.
But in 1998 the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, saying it violated the principle that Congress, and not the executive branch, holds the power of the purse.
Supporters say the bill has been written to meet constitutional standards. They say that while the president can propose items for rescission, or elimination, Congress must vote on the revised spending package.
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