Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Years of Rejection, Line-Item Veto Becomes Law

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Years of Rejection, Line-Item Veto Becomes Law

Article excerpt

In a dramatic shift of purse-string power, President Bill Clinton signed a line-item veto bill sought by presidents since Ulysses S. Grant. He promised unprecedented scrutiny of "the darkest corners of the federal budget."

But opponents accused Congress of surrendering a precious piece of its constitutional prerogative to spend the people's money. Federal employees immediately filed a court challenge.

Tipping his hat to Republican and Democratic predecessors, Clinton kept four pens used in Tuesday's signing and dispatched them to former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush - all of whom had pleaded for the power to slash specific provisions from spending bills. "Their successors will be able to use this power that they long sought to eliminate waste from the federal budget," said Clinton, who won't be able to use the line-item veto unless re-elected. The bipartisan bill will be a fixture in the presidential election, with Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole both claiming credit. "It will help put Washington on a pork-free diet," Dole said Tuesday. Clinton, who seldom used the line-item veto as Arkansas' governor, noted that 43 of the nation's 50 governors can carve away at budget bills. "They have used it well and without any upsetting of the constitutional framework," Clinton said. Under the new law, presidents can sign spending bills and - within five days - cancel specific items, including appropriations, narrowly targeted tax breaks covering 100 or fewer people and new or expanded entitlements. It does away with a requirement, in place since the nation's founding, that a president must approve or reject legislation in its entirety. Congress still gets the last word on spending: A line-item veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. …

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