sion would, in my view, be rank heresy. As we have seen, the en-
trusting of the power over the purse to the legislative branch was
no accident of history but rather the result of over 600 years of con-
test with royalty. To chisel away this rock, that through bloody
centuries has undergirded the hard- won, cherished rights of
freemen in England and in America, should be anathema to any in-
formed and thoughtful citizen in these United States.
To quote Aristotle: "Of all these things the judge is Time." From
our vantage point, then, Mr. President, as we take the long look
backwards into the murkey past, history clearly teaches us that the
power over the purse â€” ^to tax and appropriate funds â€” ^wisely came
to be lodged, more than 600 years ago, in the directly elected rep-
resentatives of the people; that this principle lies at the foundation
and is a chief source of our liberties; and that it is not a power that
should be shared by a king or a President.
Now, Mr. President, the title of my second speech is: 'The Item
Veto; Why Follow the States?"
Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the legis-
lative line-item veto smiendment offered by Senator McCain grant-
ing the President authority to veto specific items. The President
should have this authority to veto inappropriate, wasteful spending
because Congress cannot seem to discipline itself. The annual ap-
propriations bills, which include hundreds of pork barrel projects
and contribute to our $400 billion Federal budget deficit, are evi-
dence of this lack of self-discipline. It is further demonstrated by
the fact that it has been 23 years since the United States had a
balanced Federal budget.
This amendment gives the President two opportunities every
year to eliminate wasteful spending through line-item veto. First,
the President can submit rescissions as part of his budget proposal
at the beginning of the year. Second, he can line-item veto wasteful
pork spending within 20 days after signing an appropriations bill.
At either point, Congress has 20 days to overturn those line-item
vetoes or accept them. If Congress does not act, the items identified
by the President are ehminated and the taxpayers' money is saved.
If Congress feels the items have merit, it can adopt a joint resolu-
tion disapproving the rescissions.
There is no justification for pork barrel spending. Just today, I
introduced the Spending Priority Reform Act of 1992, which identi-
fies 642 projects totaling more than $1.5 billion from the fiscal year
1992 appropriations bills. All of these 642 projects failed to follow
the budget process. The bill rescinds any unobligated funds for
these projects and returns the balance to the Treasury to reduce
our $400 billion deficit. Although the savings from this proposal are
small relative to the $1.5 trillion Federal budget, it does introduce
integrity and fiscal responsibility into the process.
Congress must set priorities and control wasteful Government
spending. The Presidential line-item veto will keep Congress in
line. I support this amendment, and I urge my colleagues to do the
Mr. KASTEN. Mr. President, I strongly support the initiative by
Senators McCain and Coats to grant the President line-item veto
authority. While this legislation is needed to broaden and clarify
the President's veto authority, I believe it is time for the President
to line-item veto wasteful parts of multibillion-dollar spending bills
and test his authority on the issue with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today's $390 billion budget deficit has been created by a bankrupt
congressional budget process which has taken away the President's
power to control Federal spending.
Some legal scholars believe that the President has an inherent
line-item veto power granted by the U.S. Constitution. This theory
is based on historical precedents which underscore the original in-
tent of the Constitution's Framers.
The Constitution empowered the President to veto spending bills
passed by the Congress. However, the boundaries of Presidential
discretion over the expenditure of appropriated funds were not
clearly defined by the Framers. From 1789 until the collapse of the
Nixon Presidency, the President retained the power to impound â€”
or refuse to spend â€” money appropriated by Congress. The Congress
could not overturn this action. Effectively, this impoundment power
amounted to a line-item veto.
For almost 200 years. Presidents exercised this inherent item-
veto power to check the Congress' propensity to overspend. For ex-
ample, in 1801 President Thomas Jefferson withheld $50,000 in-
tended for maintaining Navy gunboats on the Mississippi. Presi-
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt impounded $500 million that Congress
had earmarked for public works projects. In the 1960's, Presidents
Kennedy and Johnson used impoundment power to reduce Federal
spending by 6 percent and 5.4 percent during their respective ad-
President Nixon pushed his impoundment power to its outer lim-
its by reducing and eliminating spending projects appropriated by
Congress. In response to Nixon's alleged abuse of impoundments,
Congress passed the 1974 Budget and Impoundment Control Act,
which effectively stripped the President of a legitimate constitu-
tional power to item veto wasteful spending.
The combination of restricted impoundment and the congres-
sional use of multibilHon-dollar appropriations bills has caused def-
icit spending to skyrocket. In fact, the budget deficit increased over
fourfold in the first 10 years of the 1974 act.
A new General Accounting Office [GAO] study confirms that a
line-item veto would be a significant tool in bringing the budget
deficit under control. Specifically, the GAO found that if Presidents
Ronald Reagan and George Bush had had an item veto from 1984
to 1989, about $70 billion in wasteful Government spending would
have been reduced and eliminated.
The GAO simply took the administration's announced objections
to various spending projects and funding levels and assumed that
the President selectively vetoed these items. With these line-item
spending cuts factored in, the GAO estimated that the additions to
the Federal debt over the 5-year period would have been reduced
by 6.7 percent.
Clearly, the line-item veto would help keep deficit spending
under control â€” and, more importantly, put an end to the calls by
some in Congress to raise taxes. Unfortunately, the Democrat-con-
trolled Congress has repeatedly squelched legislative attempts by
Republicans to explicitly grant line-item veto authority to the
With the national debt rising to just over $4 trillion this year,
we simply cannot aifford to wait for the Congress to act. That is
why I believe the President should assert his inherent item veto
power â€” and eliminate wasteful spending.
THE ITEM VETO; WHY FOLLOW THE STATES?
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, in my first address on the item veto,
I discussed the crucial ingredients of representative government
that the Framers borrowed from our English heritage. The purpose
was to shift the focus from what some reformers see as short-term
benefits in dealing with the current budget deficit to the much
larger perspective of institutional moorings and constitutional safe-
guards, including separation of powers and our system of checks
and balances. I traced in substantial detail the degree to which
those values depend on the retention by the legislative branch of
its control over the power of the purse.
In debating the virtues â€” and the vices â€” of the item veto, we
must remain alert to its implications for constitutional government
and executive-legislative relations. Now I will examine an argu-
ment we frequently hear: The President should have the item veto
because 43 State Governors have it.
So we hear the President say, give me what 43 State Grovemors
in this country have and I will balance the budget. And we hear
many of the Governors say we have the power of the item veto,
why should the President not have it?
There are some former Grovemors in this body who make that ar-
Mr. President, this argument is too simplistic. It sounds good. It
is much too simplistic. It suggests that State governments are like
the Federal Grovemment, only smaller. One neeed only compare the
Federal Constitution against any State constitution to note the
vast differences in the powers, functions, purposes, and responsibil-
ities of the Federal Government versus the State governments.
So to those who say, "Give me what the 43 State Governors have.
If it is good for them, I ought to have it. Why not give it to me?"
And to those in this body who say, "If it is good enough for 43 Grov-
ernors, it should be good enough for the President of the United
States." And those candidates out there who have not read the
Constitution lately and who argue, "Oh, 43 Grovernors of the coun-
try have it and we balanced our budgets. Why shouldn't the Presi-
dent have it?" I say they have not read their Constitution lately,
if ever they have paid very much attention to it.
Many constitutional provisions appropriate for the States are not
suitable for the Federal Government.
Sixteen members of the present Senate have been State Gov-
ernors. By my count, they are split down the middle on the issue
of granting the President an item veto. Half favor it; half oppose
it. Obviously the question of following State precedents on the item
veto is a complex one. We cannot conclude that what is good for
the States is automatically good for the Federal Government.
There are many questions to be explored. What constitutes an
"item," and does it include a "part" or "section" or phrases or
clauses or a whole paragraph? Why did the States grant their Gov-
ernors an item veto? What other changes did they have to make
in their constitutions and budget process to accommodate the item
veto? Do we want those changes in the U.S. Constitution? What
item veto issues have had to be litigated in State courts? Would we
likely inherit those issues at the national level? Would the item
veto reduce Federal budget deficits?
My remarks will demonstrate that the debate on the item veto
is filled with serious misconceptions. When we examine the item
veto at the State level, and compare it to the way Congress and the
President act on the national budget, it is clear that the item veto
should not be adopted by the Federal Government.
I do not care what those Democratic candidates running for
President say. I do not care what the President says. I do not care
what George Will says in his column. I do not care what the Wall
Street Journal says in its editorial. I do not care what the General
Accounting Office says in its lately published trash piece.
RELYING ON THE STATES AS A MODEL
Presidents who favor the item veto often point to State prece-
dents for support. In asking for an item veto in his State of the
Union Address in 1986, President Reagan told Congress: "I ask you
to give me what 43 Governors have: Give me a line-item veto this
year. Give me the authority to veto waste, and I'll take the respon-
sibility, I'll make the cuts, I'll take the heat." In his State of the
Union Address the next year, he asked for a line-item veto, as he
said, "so we can carve out the boondoggles and pork, those items
that would never survive on their own."
Later in 1987, in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
President Reagan claimed that the line-item veto would enable him
to "cut wasteful projects." In a radio address to the Nation, he de-
scribed the line-item veto as "a way of reaching into these massive
congressional spending bills and cutting out the wasteful items." In
yet another speech in 1987, this time to the National Association
of Manufacturers, President Reagan told his audience that the line-
item veto would give the President "the ability to veto spending,
project by project."
In his State of the Union Message in 1988, President Reagan
again asked Congress to give the President "the same authority
that 43 Governors use in their States: the right to reach into mas-
sive appropriation bills, pare away the waste, and enforce budget
discipline." He claimed that the continuing resolution contained
"millions for items such as cranberry research, blueberry research,
the study of crawfish, and the commercialization of wildflowers."
He promised to submit a proposal to rescind those items, "which"
he said, "if I had the authority to line them out I would do so."
This reliance on State practices is fundamentally flawed. Presi-
dent Reagan ignored crucial differences between budgeting at the
State and national levels.
Those others who proclaim the wonders of the line-item veto like-
wise ignore crucial differences.
His remarks to Congress, the Nation, and various organizations
on the item veto were profoundly misleading. The facts are clear.
Even if President Reagan had had the item veto during his two
terms in office, he could not have "carved out," to use his words,
"the boondoggles and pork," cut wasteful spending "project by
project," or eliminated funds for "cranberry research, blueberry re-
search, the study of crawfish, and the commercialization of
wildflowers." Later in my remarks, I will explain why that is so.
There has been too much confusion Â£ind misrepresentation on the
item veto. It is necessary for us, as representatives of the people,
to set the record straight. Especially on constitutional questions we
must seek and speak the truth.
WHY DID THE STATES ADOPT THE ITEM VETO?
Why did 43 States give their Governors the item veto and, yet,
Congress consistently refuses to grant that power to the President?
Part of the reason lies in the different attitudes toward legislative
power at the State level and congressional power at the national
level. The expectations that we have for State legislatures and for
Congress are not the same.
Wlien the American States declared their independence from
England, initially they passed through a period of distrust toward
executive power. Given the attitude at that time toward George III,
that is not surprising. Few of the States gave their Governors a
veto power. Between 1776 and 1787, only three States empowered
their Governors to exercise the veto: South Carolina, New York,
and Massachusetts. The Governor of New York, as part of a "coun-
cil of revision," shared the veto power with the chancellor and the
judges of the State supreme court. Not until 1821 was the veto
power vested solely in the Grovernor of New York. Over time, the
original thirteen States and the new States gradually extended the
veto power to their Grovemors. At the present time, every State
gives the Governor a qualified veto with the exception of North
After the Civil War, some of the States began to grant the Gov-
ernor a form of "item veto" over legislation. Usually this power was
restricted to appropriations bills. Some Governors were empowered
not only to strike an item but also to reduce its amount. That is
known as the item-reduction veto.
The motivation for the item veto came from several sources. One
was the provisional constitution of the Confederate States, adopted
on February 8, 1861, seventy-five years after the U.S. Constitution
was written. The permanent constitution of the Confederacy also
contained the item veto, using this language:
"The President may approve any appropriation and disapprove
any other appropriation in the same bill. In such case he shall, in
signing the bill, designate the appropriations disapproved; and
shall return a copy of such appropriations, with his objections, to
the House in which the bill shall have originated; and the same
proceedings shall then be had as in the case of other bills dis-
approved by the President."
The framers of the Confederate Constitution in 186 1 adopted the
item veto because they were impressed by the operation of the Eng-
lish parliamentary system as it had by then developed. They be-
lieved that it promoted more effective and efficient practices than
did the American system of separation of powers. In particular,
they liked the way that budgetary power was concentrated in the
Prime Minister and his cabinet. Under this system of government,
the legislative body had little say over the content of financial
plans. The British Parliament was largely subordinate to the Prime
The leaders of the South, although admirers of the English gov-
ernmental system, were not "blind imitators." Nevertheless, they
provided that proposals for expenditures should originate with the
President. With the exception of legislative expenses and the pay-
ment of claims against the Confederate States, the Confederate
Congress was forbidden to appropriate funds unless they were
asked for, and estimated by, heads of the executive departments or
unless Congress could muster a two-thirds vote in both Houses. To
defend his budget estimates, the President, Jefferson Davis, was
given the item veto, but he never exercised the authority. The Con-
federate Constitution also resembled the British parliamentary sys-
tem in another manner. The Confederate Congress was empowered
to grant seats in either house to the heads of the executive depart-
ments, with the privilege of discussing any measure concerning
These types of parliamentary procedure have been considered but
not adopted by the U.S. Congress. After World War I, when Con-
gress considered legislation that became the Budget and Account-
ing Act of 1921, some of the budget reformers wanted to place Con-
gress in the same subordinate position as the Confederate Congress
had been. It was proposed that Congress could not add to the
President's budget unless it received permission from the Secretary
of the Treasury or could attract a two-thirds majority in each
House. That idea was firmly rejected by Congress. It did not em-
brace the parliamentary system. The budget submitted by the
President was executive only in the sense that he was responsible
for the estimates submitted. After the budget was submitted. Con-
gress retained full power to increase or decrease the estimates by
With regard to giving departmental heads a seat in Congress
with the privilege of debating measures within the jurisdiction of
their departments, that proposal has been advanced several times.
Congressman George Pendleton of Ohio recommended it in 1864
and again, later, in 1879, when he was a member of the U.S. Sen-
ate. He was never successful in persuading his colleagues on the
merit of this idea.
In addition to the influence of the Confederate Constitution,
some of the States granted the Grovemor an item veto for another
reason. Most of the item vetoes were in place by 1915 and reflected
the efforts of progressiveness to institute "good government." Re-
formers regarded state legislatures as corrupt and venal. The fol-
lowing description of the Illinois Legislature appears to fit the rep-
utation of other state legislatures in the years after the Civil War:
"The record of the Illinois assembly in the period immediately
following the Civil War is perhaps no more shameful than the gen-
eral legislative debacle of that period; but the enactment of 2,113
bills during Governor Oglesby's term (1863-68), and of an addi-
tional 1,814 during the term of Grovemor Palmer (1868-72), illus-
trates the orgy which took place in legislatures generally. The dis-
turbing feature of these legislative mills was the fact that a large
majority of their products were obviously, and even blatantly, spe-
cial in nature. Grants, subsidies, charters, appropriations â€” favors
in the form of special and local legislation â€” were enacted in gross
negligence of public interest. (The fiction of Mark Twain's Gilded
Age is hardly as strange as the truth.) A clear impression of the
extent of this violation of legislative principle may be had by com-
paring the four volumes of special and local bills enacted in 1869
with the single volume of enactments of general state interest and
In response to this legislative behavior. States began to arm the
Governor with the item veto. Moreover, State constitutions were re-
written wholesale to restrict the legislature. For example, Florida's
Constitution of 1868 limited the number of subjects that could be
included in a bill: "Each law enacted in the Legislature shall em-
brace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith."
Significantly, these types of restrictions have never been applied to
Congress. As a result, the budget procedures followed by the States
are in no way comparable to those adopted by the National Govern-
ment. Once we understand the extent of that difference, we can un-
derstand why the item veto is inappropriate for the Federal Gov-
CONSTITUTIONAL RESTRICTIONS ON STATE LEGISLATURES
Anyone reading the text of State constitutions is struck by their
antilegislature bias. The constitutions are filled with proscriptions
and prohibitions. In contrast to the U.S. Constitution, which is in
the nature of a general charter with few restrictions on Congress,
State constitutions place limits on State borrowing, require bal-
anced budgets, and contain numerous prohibitions on private, spe-
cial, and local laws. Specifications are set forth, usually of a restric-
tive nature, on laws that (1) fix the rate of interest; (2) remit fines,
penalties, or forfeitures; (3) exempt property from taxation; (4) re-
late to the management of public schools; and (5) alter the salaries
of public officers during their terms in office. Such restrictions
would be inappropriate for the U.S. Constitution; yet, they are com-
monplace in State constitutions.
Other restrictions in State constitutions are tied closely to the
item veto. General appropriations bills shall contain nothing but
appropriations. The purpose is to prohibit the addition of sub-
stantive legislation to appropriations bills. Authorization bills are
limited to a single subject in many States. Language in State con-
stitutions even dictates the style and form of appropriations bills.
On all such matters, the U.S. Constitution is silent. Congress is at
liberty to establish its own authorization and appropriations proce-
dures and to change them whenever necessary.
The U.S. Constitution merely states that "No money shall be
drawn from the U.S. Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropria-
tions made by Law." Congress, thus, may act through the appro-
priations process with very few constitutional restrictions. Congress
is prohibited from increasing or decreasing the compensation of a
President during his term in office, and may not diminish the com-
pensation of members of the Federal judiciary. The first amend-
ment prohibits Congress from using the power of the purse to es-
tablish a national religion. For the most part, however, the spend-
ing power is available to Congress to use in accordance with its
own judgment for social, military, and economic ends.
That is not the case with State constitutions. I shall cite some
tjrpical restrictions. First, although the Federal Constitution does
not prohibit the Congress from adding legislation to appropriations
bills â€” such matters are handled by House and Senate rules â€” State
constitutions do prohibit legislation on appropriation bills. Section
71 of the Alabama Constitution provides that the general appro-
priations bill "shall embrace nothing but appropriations" for speci-
fied purposes. Article IV, section 8, of the Illinois Constitution
states that appropriations bills shall be limited to the subject of ap-
propriations. Article IV, section 69, of the Mississippi Constitution
directs: "Legislation shall not be engrafted on appropriations bills.
* * *" Under the New Mexico Constitution, article IV, section 16,
any matter not specifically authorized by the Constitution to be in-
cluded in appropriations bills shall be held void. Other State con-
stitutions contain similar restrictions. The U.S. Congress is not
subject to constitutional limitations on what belongs in appropria-
tions bills. What a difference.
Second, Congress can limit a bill to a single subject or pass a bill
with more than one subject. The State constitutions prohibit legis-
latures from including more than one subject within a bill, other
than the general appropriations bill. The purpose is to protect the
governor's line-item veto and to restrict "logrolling" by legislators.
Section 71 of the Alabama Constitution, after establishing the con-