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Chabot Holds Hearing on Constitutional Line Item Veto

Location: Washington, DC

Chabot Holds Hearing on Constitutional Line Item Veto

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, today held a hearing on "The Constitution and the Line Item Veto." The hearing explored options for enacting legislative line item veto proposals that would be considered constitutional by the Supreme Court. Chabot was a strong supporter of the Line Item Veto Act enacted by Congress in 1996 and later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

During its brief life, the line item veto was used by President Clinton to cut 82 projects totaling nearly $2 billion in spending. Chabot, a strong supporter of the line item veto, has also introduced a resolution to end the practice of combining annual federal spending bills into large omnibus packages. The Stop the Omnibus Pork resolution targets the pork-laden omnibus bills that are often passed at the end of the legislative session with little scrutiny. Chabot believes the passage of both a constitutional line item veto, and his prohibition on massive omnibus spending bills, would force Congress to reduce wasteful spending.

Chabot's statement is below:

Statement by Chairman Steve Chabot
House Constitution Subcommittee
Oversight Hearing on "The Constitution and the Line Item Veto"
April 27, 2006

Good afternoon, and welcome to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution's oversight hearing on "The Constitution and the Line Item Veto."

We face serious budget problems. Congress is simply spending too much money. Our national debt is now $8.3 trillion -- with hundreds of billions being added every year -- that future generations of Americans will have to repay. Fiscal sanity -- the simple, commonsense process of not spending more than you take in -- must be restored in Washington. We need to balance the budget.

We also need reform measures such as the Stop the Omnibus Pork resolution that I have introduced, to prohibit the bundling together of appropriations bills that lead to deficits. I am committed to stopping this spending and the line-item veto is a good start.

The notion of a line item veto has intrigued those concerned with wasteful federal spending for a long time. Presidents, at least since Thomas Jefferson, have asserted that the executive has some discretion in the expenditure of monies appropriated by Congress. Forty-three governors have some form of a line item veto to reduce spending. Yet until 1996, no such mechanism existed at the federal level. In that year, Congress enacted the Line Item Veto Act, of which I was a co-sponsor, with overwhelming bi-partisan support. However, the United States Supreme Court ultimately held that the Line Item Veto Act was unconstitutional because it gave the president the power to rescind a portion of a bill, as opposed to an entire bill as he is authorized to do by article I, section 7 of the Constitution.

Despite the Supreme Court's actions, the notion of the line item veto has remained very popular. During its brief life, President Clinton used the line item veto to cut 82 projects totaling nearly $2 billion. President Bush has repeatedly requested that Congress enact a legislative line item veto, and, for the first time, has submitted a specific legislative proposal. President Bush's proposal has been warmly received by such disparate editorial boards as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

That proposal, embodied in H.R. 4890, introduced by Representative Paul Ryan, of which I am a cosponsor, would give the president the authority to recommend to Congress that it rescind certain dollar amounts of discretionary budget authority or any item of direct spending. The bill provides for certain expedited procedures to take up such rescission bills. The president may withhold the spending of those funds for a period of no more than 180 days, however, only Congress can pass a bill that will rescind the initial spending measures. If Congress does not act, the spending provision will still remain law.

As disappointed as I was with the Supreme Court's ruling against the original line item veto, I am heartened to see that Chuck Cooper, who argued before the Court that the 1996 law was unconstitutional, is testifying today that this bill is, in fact, constitutional. However, despite Mr. Cooper's support, some have argued that provisions in this bill could potentially be abused by a president, and, as such, raise certain separation of powers concerns. I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses on how these concerns can be addressed.

I also look forward to the testimony of Congressman Mark Kennedy, who has introduced a constitutional amendment to give the president the authority to reduce or disapprove any appropriation. Congress could override this veto in the manner prescribed in Article I, section 7 of the Constitution. This proposal, if enacted, would be clearly constitutional and would give the president the authority to directly disapprove of specific spending requests.

Again, I want to welcome all of our witnesses and I look forward to hearing all of your views on how Congress can effectively address its problems with rampant spending.

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