public based on a system of separation of powers distributed among
three equal branches acting under checks and balances that oper-
ate, each against and with the other. The Government of the Na-
tion must decide and implement policy, not for just a single State
but, rather, for 50 States and territories. Congress, unlike a State
legislature, must provide for the common defense and general wel-
fare of the United States; wrestle with international policies affect-
ing trade, commerce, immigration, alliances, treaties, and finance;
raise and support armies and maintain a navy; establish post of-
fices and national highways; and formulate fiscal and monetary
policy that will keep the economy strong and interest rates stable.
Only the Federal Grovemment has the power to affect our relation-
ship with what was the Soviet Union or to send men and planes
to Saudi Arabia to protect that country against an invasion by Sad-
dam Hussein's army. Only the Federal Government has the capac-
ity to defend the Nation against hostile navies. Only the Federal
legislature has the power to regulate commerce with foreign na-
tions, establish a National Interstate Highway System, and provide
for the general welfare of the United States.
The Governors, in their convention, have asked that the Presi-
dent be given the line-item veto, the same power that 43 Governors
have. What utter folly. What utter folly. You would think they
would have read the Constitution at least once in their lives and
that they would have taken the time to study some little bit of his-
tory and, if not that, at least that they simply use common sense.
Yet, they are the first to stand in line for their checks from the
Federal Government which they use to balance their State budgets.
Moreover, most State legislatures meet for only brief periods dur-
ing a year or every 2 years and lack the budget, oversight, and pol-
icymaking tools that are more within the realm of the executive.
Under such circumstances, the responsibility is more upon the ex-
ecutive to do the budget paring ā ^which burden, incidentally, is
made easier, as I have indicated, by the flow of Federal moneys
into the State, siphoned through the congressional pipeline that
runs from Washington.
Mr. President, a study of the discussions involving the veto
power which took place at the Constitutional Convention will find
no mention whatsoever of a line-item veto, nor was there any ref-
erence to such in any of the Federalist papers written by Madison,
Hamilton, and Jay, explaining the Constitution and advocating its
ratification by the States. The convention debates on the veto re-
volved mostly around the issues of whether it should be an abso-
lute or qualified negative; whether the votes necessary to override
should be two-thirds or three-fourths of both Houses; and whether
the negative should be vested in the executive alone or jointly, as,
for example, in the executive and the judiciary. As Hamilton later
explains in the Federalist No. 73:
"The primary inducement to conferring the power in question
upon the executive is to enable him to defend himself; the second-
ary one is to increase the chances in favor of the community,
against the passing of bad laws, through haste, inadvertence, or de-
Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Pryor). Seven and a half min-
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, the Framers, in their wisdom, decided
against giving to the Executive an absolute veto. Yet, a line-item
veto would essentially amount to an absolute veto. Only in rare in-
stances has Congress overridden the President's veto, even when
he has chosen to veto a bill of general interest to the country at
large. To expect twothirds of both Houses to override a veto of ap-
propriation items of interest only to a few States is quite unrealis-
tic. Additionally, on many occasions, provisions are included in leg-
islation which, if they stood alone, would be vetoed, but, because
they are part of a bill containing other provisions that the Presi-
dent wants, he declines to exercise the veto power. Yet, the bill,
stripped of the provisions objectionable to the President, would no
longer be what the Congress intended or envisioned when it voted
to give its approval. The altered bill, which then the President
would sign, would become a law different from the legislation
which Congress passed. To thus place in one man's hands the
power to revise and amend a bill or resolution by striking language
therefrom, would be to make the President a super legislator.
Clothing a President with such legislative power would be counter
to the letter and the spirit of article I, section 1, of the Constitu-
tion, which vests all legislative powers in the Congress. The Fram-
ers clearly intended that the President's choice be limited either to
a veto of the whole bill or to letting it become law.
Now I turn briefly to the politics of the so-called line-item veto.
I say "so-called" because there is much disagreement as to what is
meant by the word "item" when it is used in this context. The pro-
posal for a line-item veto is not something new; it has been around
for a long time ā long before Mr. Bush, long before Mr. Reagan, who
was perhaps its most passionate devotee among the Presidents,
came to town. The item veto came into being during the Civil War,
first in the provisional constitution of the Confederate States of
America. It was then adopted by Georgia in 1865 and by Texas in
1866. Following the Civil War, almost every new State admitted to
the Union adopted the item veto, and most of the older ones did
likewise. As the States adopted the line-item veto, the agitation for
engrafting such a veto onto the Federal Constitution has increased,
and it has thus been a matter of debate, beginning with the advo-
cacy by President Grant, down to the present time.
Many who support the line-item veto are well-intentioned people
who see it as an elixir for the disease of bloated Federal deficits.
Others who have not taken the time for serious thought and study
of the matter simply think it is a good idea. Still others, who ought
to know better, advance it as a panacea for deficit paring when, in
reality, they are playing the demagog by attempting to shift to the
President a responsibility which is theirs, as members of the legis-
lative branch, but which they lack both the will and the courage
to carry out. The proposal for a line-item veto at the national level
has its appeal. And it is understandable that it would rank high
in the polls. But the average American, who must concern himself
with raising a family, with holding a job, or with seeking a job and
standing in the unemplojonent line, or advancing himself in his job,
and putting the daily bread on the table, has neither the time nor
the inclination perhaps to examine and sift through the crosscur-
rents of history and arcane political theory in order to fully famil-
iarize himself with the pros and cons of the line-item veto debate.
I do not think we should expect him to do all of that, when I am
sure most Senators themselves have never taken the time to do it.
It thus becomes our responsibility, as Members of the Senate and
House, to do what we can to inform the Nation of the impractical-
ity and the unwisdom of such a proposal as a line-item veto. Madi-
son's words, as contained in the Federalist No. 63, are most worthy
of repeating here.
Listen to Madison. Listen to his words as they roll across the
centuries down to us:
"There are particular moments in public affairs when the people,
stimulated by some irregular passion * * * or misled by the artful
misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which
they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and
condemn * * * in these critical moments, how salutary will be the
interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in
order to * * * suspend the blow meditated by the people against
themselves, until reason, justice and truth can regain their author-
ity over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people
of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so
provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions?
Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of
decreeing to the same citizens, the hemlock on one day, and statues
on the next."
Mr. President, Madison was illustrating the utility of a Senate
in the establishment of a due sense of national character. And, in
so doing, he was providing the measure of our duty as Senators to
the States and to the people.
Let us, then, do our duty, forgetting not that the power over the
purse, in Madison's words, is "the most compleat and effectual
weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate rep-
resentatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every griev-
ance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure."
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, may I ask the question how much
time remains on both sides?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona has 14
minutes and 35 seconds.
Mr. McCAIN. On the other side?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Seven seconds remain on the other
Mr. McCAIN. I yield 3 minutes to the Senator from Idaho [Mr.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, would it be agreeable to ask consent
for some additional time on both sides?
Mr. McCain. I win be glad to.
Mr. BYRD. I would like 10 minutes in closing. I am willing to
have the other side have an additional 10 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. BYRD. I make that request.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. I yield 5 minutes to the Senator from Idaho.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho is recog-
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Arizona
for yielding on an issue of utmost importance to this body.
For a good number of years the Nation as a whole has spoken
out to the fiscal irresponsibility, or I should say the lack of fiscal
discipline that the Congress of the United States has demonstrated
for a good number of years. They have in their wisdom asked for
a variety of choices to legislative approaches or to constitutional
change that might reinstate a discipline long forgotten.
A line-item veto in the form of a constitutional amendment was
proposed. It has been proposed and remains very popular in the
minds of many citizens. But today my colleagues from Arizona and
Indiana have introduced a legislative approach, one that I think is
worthy of the consideration of this body in absence of our willing-
ness or our ability to produce a constitutional amendment.
Most assuredly, it will not be as long lasting, at least in first
blush. But it gives the Congress of the United States an oppor-
tunity to work much more closely with the executive branch in
dealing with budgetary problems.
For a long time I have laughed, sometimes quietly ā most times
quietly ā over the fact that legislators find it very easy to blame an
Executive for the woes of our budget; for the deficit spending that
has gone on progressively here for 25 to 30 years, when in fact arti-
cle I, section 1 as my colleague from West Virginia just mentioned,
really gives no budgetary responsibility to the executive. We only
find it, since the budget acts of the midseventies, opportunistic to
argue that in fact budget deficits are the responsibility or the lack
of foresight on the part of the executive. It is simply not true by
law or by Constitution.
But I do believe it is now time to allow those kinds of legislative
efforts that will not stand alone to be judged openly, instead of
tucked neatly away for the service of one's individual interest and,
oftentimes, one's individual State.
My State has been a recipient of that kind legislation over the
years and my citizens on occasion have been pleased with it but I
think when given recognition of the fact that the historic clock of
Government is now ticking more loudly than ever before, as it re-
lates to a time when interest on debt in this country will be the
second-largest item in the budget that we will have to deal with,
that the citizens of this country will wipe clean from Government
those who have refused to stand for fiscal responsibility and will
replace them with citizens who believe in that kind of responsibil-
ity and will vote accordingly with what they have pledged on the
A time for an approach to change is at hand and I believe the
approach today that is offered in the legislative line-item veto is
but a small, though important, measure in providing greater
checks and balances to the lack of fiscal discipline that this body
and the other one have so continually demonstrated over the years.
Clearly, an up-or-down vote ā let the citizens judge because I do be-
lieve it is workable. I think we can decide individually and collec-
tively, issue by issue, if necessary, how the budget ought to be
treated. My guess is that within a reasonably short time, the budg-
et process will learn to reconfigurate itself and crafl in a way legis-
lative appropriations that will be more palatable and more accept-
able to the general public toward a more balanced budget, toward
more fiscal responsibility. Those are the issues that are at hand.
Our Constitution is a tough document to change, as well it
should be. But I think our citizens speak out today more loudly
than they ever have. They are unhappy, and they have reason to
be unhappy. They watch this Congress spend this Nation toward
bankruptcy, oh, all in the name of something good, but absolutely
with no care of fiscal responsibility.
Today, this amendment offers up a small modicum of an ap-
proach toward just that, allowing us to divide up, to separate, and
for our President to become or the executive branch to become a
greater participant in the business of budgeting for our Govern-
ment and for the citizens of this country.
I strongly support this legislative effort, this amendment. I think
it is appropriately placed, and I would certainly hope that a major-
ity of the U.S. Senate could stand in support of a legislative line-
I jdeld back the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.
Mr. McCain. I yield 5 minutes to the Senator from Wyoming.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming is recog-
nized for 5 minutes.
Mr. SIMPSON. I thank my colleague from Arizona, Mr. Presi-
dent, and I admire him greatly for pursuing something he deeply
believes in, and that is his strength. When Senator John McCain
is on an issue, he gives it his absolute fullest vigor and enthusiasm
and intellect and brings all of those to the cause. I commend, too,
my colleague from Indiana, Senator Coats, for his tireless work on
this issue, and for his cogent arguments today.
Obviously, we have had a very compelling debate. I do support
the line-item veto authority. It has been said again and again that
43 Governors have it, that 43 States have recognized that line-item
veto authority is essential in maintaining a balanced budget. A
very good friend of mine, a Democrat from Wyoming, Ed Herschler,
Governor for 12 years, used it vigorously and in most cases quite
I know better than to debate historical issues with the distin-
guished chair of the Appropriations Committee, our remarkable
and respected colleague, the President pro tempore. One word, "re-
spect," would summarize his service to the country.
I have listened with great interest to the historical facts sur-
rounding this issue, and I just wanted to add one further one that
I think is most interesting. We should remember that the veto au-
thority of the Presidency has never at any point been set in stone
as having a particular form.
My colleagues well know ā and Senator Byrd spoke of it, he
spoke of President Washington, but I am sure my colleagues
know ā President Washington sought to avoid having to veto legis-
lation at all costs. It was his view that it was an emergency meas-
ure to be used only in dire circumstances. Indeed, the Presidents
which followed Washington seemed to adhere to a view that the
veto could only be applied on constitutional grounds. Simply
vetoing a bill because the Chief Executive disagreed with it was
considered to be of dubious constitutionality and maybe a little in
bad taste, too. But it was Andrew Jackson in his vetoing of the
rechartering of the bank of the United States who established the
principle the President could merely, because he disliked the piece
of legislation, refuse to sign it.
The exact nature of the veto power of the President has never
been beyond dispute. No one can say with absolute certainty just
what authority of that type the Constitution granted to the Presi-
dent. When Abraham Lincoln employed a pocket veto during his
tenure, he was widely criticized for a usurpation of authority.
So these uses of the veto power were at one time considered un-
thinkable. And now we see them as no way inconsistent with con-
stitutional veto authority.
We do hear all the time around here, "Why do you people not get
serious about balancing the budget?" We hear a lot of talk about
how deficits have sk3rrocketed during the last decade.
One would think that the President alone has been voting on
budgets during all of that time and just taking us to doomsday. He
has not been. In fact, he has no say.
In my time here, I have seen enough where his budget comes up
here and the first thing that is often said, at least in the other
body, is "dead on arrival." They add 20 percent to it over there, try
to get us to take off 10, and we play that game and the American
public apparently swallowed it.
So the President does have no say under current practice as to
the particulars which are contained in appropriations bills. There
is a choice of two options: either sign it or veto it. If he wants to
keep funding the many necessary tasks of Government, he has to
now swallow ā or better yet, gag on ā every pork barrel project
which Congress chooses to include.
There are a lot of people who say this is a time of fiscal crisis
and we need to take meaningful and drastic action to reduce the
budget deficit. This is said at the same time as we all in this Sen-
ate, every single one of us, work like dogs to include our own favor-
ite spending projects in the appropriations bills and to ship them
down to the White House for signature.
It seems that many want to blame the President for the soaring
deficit. I have heard some thrilling debate on that in the last
days ā and I have seen many charts. But they recoil at the thought
of his having the means to do one single thing about it.
So I ask my colleagues, is that not curious? If this is truly the
man, the evil man, the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who is
totally responsible for this runaway spending activity in our coun-
try's budget, what on Earth then is to be feared by giving him line-
item veto authority? What is the fear?
So I suggest that the reaction of this Senate to the Presidents
having line-item veto authority is proof that that authority is really
something to be feared ā plain f-e-a-r ā around here; that the man
in the Oval Office is not indifferent and he would use that line-item
veto to attack many of our favorite projects. I think it is time to
call the bluff.
We have a national debt of $4,145 trillion ā $4,145 trillion ā and
a budget for 1 year of $1.5 trillion, and a deficit of $365 billion, or
pick your number, and that is the result of the current practice
that the President must swallow congressional spending whole, or
not at all. Surely, our Grovernment will not work less effectively if
there were a middle road for the President ā and therefore the
budget ā to take.
I thank Senator McCain, and encourage him in his effort.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time of the Senator from Wyo-
ming has expired.
Mr. McCAIN. I 3deld myself 7 minutes.
Mr. President, I thank my friend from Wyoming for his kind
words and, more important, for his eloquent statement on behalf
of this very important issue.
I also again would like to express my appreciation to my friend
from Indiana. I believe we are now in our 10th year of waging this
battle together. I must say things look a lot better now than they
did 10 years ago. I say that with mixed emotions because the ur-
gency of this issue is dramatically exacerbated by the incredible
deficit that is now burdening the American people that my friend
from Wyoming just referred to.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that letters from the
Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for a Sound Econ-
omy, the United States Business and Industrial Council, National
Taxpayers Union, International Mass Retail Association, and
Cofire, [Coalition for Fiscal Restraint], be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the letters were ordered to be printed
in the Record, as follows:
Council for Citizens
Against Government Waste,
Washington, DC, February 24, 1992.
Hon. John McCain,
U.S. Senate, Senate Russell Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator McCain: On behalf of the Council for Citizens
Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I am writing to express our
support for the legislative line item veto act, which you and Sen-
ator Coats plan to offer in the near future. We salute your leader-
ship on this important issue, as well as your protest against unau-
thorized defense spending.
CCAGW has long supported your legislation to give the President
the same authority which 43 governors now exercise. The line item
veto is an essential tool to enable the President to control the
spending machine in Washington.
The legislative line item veto would lead to the elimination of
egregious pork barrel spending as revealed in CCAGWs 1992 Pig
Book, with 59 items worth $372 million. In addition, it would help
attack the more than 850 items of pork worth $8 billion which
CCAGW uncovered in the 1992 appropriations bills.
With a federal deficit expected to reach an unprecedented $400
billion next year, the line item veto could not be more timely.
Senator McCain, the 450,000 members of CCAGW fully endorse
your valiant fight to eliminate government waste. Your continued
efforts to put this nation's fiscsd house in order demonstrate that
you are a true friend to American taxpayers.
Thomas A. Schatz,
February 24, 1992.
Senator John McCain,
Dear Senator McCain: On behalf of our 250,000 members. Citi-
zens for a Sound Economy (CSE) thanks for your leadership in
adopting the line-item veto. As you know, CSE will use this "KEY
VOTE" to calculate eligibility for our annual Jefferson Award pro-
gram and will report each senator's veto on your amendment to
CSE members in their respective states.
This budget process reform has very broad support. In fact, the
top four presidential candidates in New Hampshire ā George Bush,
Pat Buchanan, Paul Tsongas, and Bill Clinton ā all support the
line-item veto. As you know from your constituent mail and town
hall meetings, taxpayers are sickened to read about pork-barrel
programs that squander the money they send to Washington, espe-
cially when this country faces a record deficit of $399 billion this
year. The Greneral Accounting Office (GAO) recently estimated that
a line-item veto could save more than $70 billion over a five-year
period. The GAO based its findings on the Office of Management
and Budget's "Statements of Official Policy," and it assumed the
president would veto every spending measure he opposed. With a
presidential line-item veto, even more wasteful programs than the
$70 billion already identified might be eliminated.
The share of the gross federal debt borne by the average family
of four will reach a record $64,000 this year. Part of that burden
could have been erased if Congress had instituted a line-item veto
earlier. It is high time that Congress adopt this budget process re-
form and grant the president the veto authority that 43 governors
already possess. Thaink you once again for your leadership in help-
ing make the line-item veto a reality.
U.S. Business & Industrial Council,
Washington, DC, February 25, 1992.
Dear Senator: This week, Senator John McCain will offer an
amendment to an appropriate piece of legislation which will specifi-