And for President Trump to get that power, it would be a lot harder than he (or his administration) thinks.
This weekend on Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had some interesting thoughts in regards to future federal budget discussions.
There’s a lot to unpack there…
First, for those that don’t know, the type of legislative maneuver that Mnuchin is talking about is called the line-item veto. The idea of the line-item veto is a simple one, in where the president – in this case Donald Trump – would have the ability to eliminate parts of legislation that Congress passes. This is in contrast to how the President’s veto power currently works, in which President Trump would have to either veto an entire piece of legislation or sign it into law. Recently, the Trump administration has publicly pushed Congress to pass legislation that would allow the President to line-item veto legislation, with the administration specifically requesting that power be given for government spending bills.
Yet, here’s the problem with President Trump asking Congress for the power to line-item veto legislation; the Supreme Court has already ruled the practice to be unconstitutional!
Back in the 90’s, then-President Bill Clinton tried to establish the line-item veto as a power of the executive branch. In 1996, after Congress had passed the Line Item Veto Act, President Clinton had used the practice on a number of provisions and congressional bills – usually dealing with spending and taxes – eliminating parts of legislation that he didn’t care for. However, that all ended with the case Clinton v. The City of New York, where the Supreme Court had ruled that the Line Item Veto Act was unconstitutional due to it giving the president power to change legislation directly; which as SCOTUS pointed out is the job of the legislative branch (ie Congress), not the executive (ie the President).
Because of the SCOTUS ruling, if the Trump Administration wanted the power of the line-item veto, it would have to come in the form of a Constitutional Amendment. So if the Trump administration was serious about this rule change – Spoiler: They Aren’t – and actually wanted to put real political clout behind this – Another Spoiler: They Won’t – then two things would have to happen:
(1) Congress would have to pass the rule, with a 2/3 majority in each the House and Senate.
(2) Out of 50 state legislatures, 38 of them would have to pass the measure.
Only after all that, would the president’s use of the line-item veto be Constitutional. In other words, the Trump administration getting a Constitutional Amendment passed is highly unlikely.
There is also the tactic that the Trump administration could ask the Supreme Court to look at the practice of the line-item veto again with a legal dispute, but in reality, the Trump administration has a better chance of getting a Constitutional Amendment passed than with SCOTUS revisiting the constitutionality of the line-item veto. Which again to be clear, a Constitutional Amendment on this is not happening!
So for President Trump (and his administration), putting pressure on Congress to give them power to line-item veto legislation is becoming increasingly bizarre; because it’s really not up to them.
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