Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Court Jettisons Line-Item Veto in Throwing out President's New Veto Authority, Justices Bolster Hand of Congress. but They Put Limits on Starr Probe

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Court Jettisons Line-Item Veto in Throwing out President's New Veto Authority, Justices Bolster Hand of Congress. but They Put Limits on Starr Probe

Article excerpt

In a pair of rulings likely to have a profound impact on bedrock principles of American law, the Supreme Court on Thursday took away President Clinton's line-item veto authority - but also put some limits on the authority of Mr. Clinton's pursuer, independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

The line-item veto decision negated a 1997 law that potentially represented one of the largest shifts in power between branches of the US government since members of Congress wore knee breeches and wigs.

High Court justices ruled that there's no way around it: The Constitution says the president can only veto bills in their entirety. Striking out individual projects, as provided for by the line-item veto law, constitutes undue presidential intrusion into the congressional legislative process. "This case was a big victory for framers of the Constitution," says Jamin Raskin, a law professor at American University here. The decision involving Mr. Starr, by contrast, could be seen as a big victory for privacy and the US legal profession. Justices thwarted Starr's efforts to obtain notes taken by White House aide Vincent Foster's lawyer during a meeting just before Foster's 1993 suicide. The 6-to-3 decision means that the attorney-client privilege of secrecy holds even after the client's passing. If successful, Starr's attempt to break that shield would have had a lasting impact on the US legal profession, and on all Americans who at some point in their lives seek help for matters that have aspects they wish to keep confidential. "Most experts in this field would have been dismayed by a contrary decision," says Kathleen Clark, an ethics professor at Washington University School of Law. "It is very significant ... it's not often that the Supreme Court rules on these legal ethics issues." The line-item veto is the only piece of the original GOP Contract With America that Clinton supported. Indeed, the power to ink out parts of bills is something presidents of both parties have sought for decades. President Clinton and its GOP congressional backers billed the veto as a tool that could help keep the nation's budget in check, by making it harder to get expensive pork-barrel projects passed into law. …

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