Clinton v. City of New York
547 U.S. 417 (1998)

  • The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 allowed the President to “cancel”, that is to void or legally nullify, certain provisions of appropriations bills, and disallowed the use of funds from canceled provisions for offsetting deficit spending in other areas.
  • The Line Item Veto Act was politically controversial. Six members of Congress, sued to prevent use of the line-item veto.
  • The Trial Court found for the Congressmen. The President appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court dismissed the case.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the Congressmen lacked standing and dismissed their suit.
  • Several other groups (including the City of New York) filed suit in a second attempt to have the Act declared unconstitutional.
  • The Trial Court ruled found the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional. The President appealed.
    • Because the Line Item Veto Act established an expedited appeal process for challenges, the case was directly appealed from the District Court to the Supreme Court.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the Line Item Veto Act violated Article I Section 7 of the Constitution.
      • The Line Item Veto Act allowed the President to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of duly enacted statutes by using line-item cancellations. That violated the Presentment Clause of the Constitution, which outlines a specific practice for enacting a Statute.
    • The Court construed the silence of the Constitution on the subject of such unilateral Presidential action as equivalent to “an express prohibition.”
      • The Court found that Statutes may only be enacted “in accord with a single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedure”, and that a bill must be approved or rejected by the President in its entirety.
  • In a concurrence it was argued that basically the President already has the equivalent of a line-item veto, since the President already has the authority to not spend money on a program he doesn’t like. What’s the difference?
  • In a dissent, it was argued that the objective of the Line Item Veto Act was constitutionally proper and was consistent with powers that the President has held in the past.
    • The Act, “does not violate any specific textual constitutional command, nor does it violate any implicit Separation of Powers principle.”
  • This ruling is a companion to the Nondelegation Doctrine. In that doctrine, it was held that Congress does not have the authority to give away its powers to make laws. Here, it appears that Congress is not allowed to allow the Executive Branch to modify laws they make.