Item Veto and Expanded Impoundment Proposals: Legislative History and Current Status
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Conflicting budget priorities of the President and Congress accentuate the institutional tensions
between the executive and legislative branches inherent in the federal budget process.
Impoundment, whereby a President withholds or delays the spending of funds appropriated by
Congress, provides an important mechanism for budgetary control during budget implementation
in the executive branch; but Congress retains oversight responsibilities at this stage as well.
President Bush, like his recent predecessors, has called for an item veto, or possibly expanded
impoundment authority, to provide him with greater control over federal spending.
The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (Title X of P.L. 93-344), established two categories of
impoundments: deferrals, or temporary delays in funding availability; and rescissions, or
permanent cancellation of budget authority. With a rescission, the funds must be made available
for obligation unless both houses of Congress take action to approve the President’s rescission
request within 45 days of “continuous session.”
Consideration of impoundment reform increasingly became joined with that of an item veto for
the President. While Constitutional amendment proposals have not disappeared (see H.J.Res. 38),
many who originally favored an item veto constitutional amendment turned to expanded
rescission authority for the President as a functionally similar mechanism achievable more easily
by statutory change.
The Line Item Veto Act was signed into law on April 9, 1996 (P.L. 104-130), and it became
effective January 1, 1997. Key provisions allowed the President to cancel any dollar amount of
discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or certain limited tax benefits
contained in any law, unless disapproved by Congress. On June 25, 1998, the Supreme Court, in
the case of Clinton v. City of New York, held the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it
violated the presentment clause; in order to grant the President true item veto authority, a
constitutional amendment would be needed (according to the majority opinion).
Measures seeking to provide a constitutional alternative to the 1996 law have been introduced in th
each subsequent Congress. In the 109 Congress, the House passed H.R. 4890, the Legislative
Line Item Veto Act of 2006, by a vote of 247-172. The Senate Budget Committee favorably
reported S. 3521, an omnibus budget process reform measure containing expedited rescission th
provisions, but no further action occurred before the 109 Congress adjourned.
Early in the 110th Congress, two expedited rescission amendments came to the Senate floor. On
January 24, 2007, a vote to invoke cloture on a so-called “item veto” amendment (S.Amdt. 101)
failed. Subsequently, S. 1186 and S.J.Res. 27 were introduced. Expedited rescission and item veto
measures are also pending in the House, including H.R. 595, H.R. 689, H.R. 1375, H.R. 1998,
H.R. 2084, and H.J.Res. 38. This report will be updated as events warrant.
Backgr ound ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Brief History of Impoundment..................................................................................................1
Impoundment Control Act of 1974.....................................................................................2
Alternative to an Item Veto.......................................................................................................4
Evolution of Expanded Rescission Proposals...........................................................................5
Enactment of the Line Item Veto Act of 1996.................................................................................6
Developments During the 105th Congress.......................................................................................9
Initial Court Decisions............................................................................................................10
The Line Item Veto in Action...................................................................................................11
More Court Challenges...........................................................................................................12
Consideration of Alternatives to the Line Item Veto Act........................................................13
Developments from 1999-2004.....................................................................................................14
Developments in the 109th Congress.............................................................................................17
Measures Introduced in the 109th Congress...................................................................................20
Developments in the 110th Congress.............................................................................................21
Measures Introduced in the 110th Congress...................................................................................25
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................26
Debate about the appropriate relationship between the branches in the federal budget process
seems inevitable, given the constitutional necessity of shared power in this sphere. Under the
Constitution, Congress possesses the “power of the purse” (“No money shall be drawn from the
Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law”), but the President enjoys broad
authority as the chief executive who “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The Constitution is silent concerning the specifics of a budget system for the federal government.
Informal procedures sufficed for many years. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 (P.L. 67-
14) for the first time required the President to submit a consolidated budget recommendation to
Congress. To assist in this task, the act also created a new agency, the Bureau of the Budget, “to
assemble, correlate, revise, reduce, or increase the estimates of the several departments or
establishments.” In 1970, the budget agency was reconstituted as the Office of Management and 1
Budget (OMB). OMB also plays an important role later in the budget process when funds are
actually spent as appropriations laws are implemented. Impoundment of funds by the President
represents an important component in this stage of budget execution.
Presidential impoundment actions have sometimes been controversial. The subject of granting the
President item veto authority, akin to that exercised by 43 governors, also has elicited
considerable debate. With an item veto, the executive can delete specific provisions in a piece of 2
legislation presented for signature, and then proceed to sign the measure into law.
Impoundment includes any executive action to withhold or delay the spending of appropriated
funds. One useful distinction among impoundment actions, which received statutory recognition
in the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, focuses on duration: whether the President’s intent is
permanent cancellation of the funds in question (rescission) or merely a temporary delay in
Another useful contrast distinguishes presidential deferrals for routine administrative reasons
from deferrals for policy purposes. Virtually all Presidents have impounded funds in a routine
manner as an exercise of executive discretion to accomplish efficiency in management. The
creation of budgetary reserves as a part of the apportionment process required by the
Antideficiency Acts (31 U.S.C. 1511-1519) provided formal structure for such routine
impoundments, which originated with an administrative regulation issued in 1921 by the Bureau 3
of the Budget and then received a statutory base in 1950. Impoundments for policy reasons, such
1 For background on the 1921 law, the Bureau of the Budget, and the creation of OMB, see Larry Berman, The Office
of Management and Budget and the Presidency, 1921-1979 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979); and
Frederick C. Mosher, A Tale of Two Agencies (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1984). For a brief
introduction to OMB at present, see CRS Report RS21665, Office of Management and Budget (OMB): A Brief
Overview, by Clinton T. Brass.
2 Various statutory alternatives such as expedited rescission are sometimes referred to as giving the President a “line
item veto.” This usage is not technically correct, but serves to call attention to some functional similarities between the
3 See Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950, P.L. 81-784, 64 Stat. 2317.
as opposition to a particular program or a general desire to reduce spending, whether short-term
or permanent, have proved far more controversial.
Instances of presidential impoundment date back to the early nineteenth century, but Presidents 4
typically sought accommodation rather than confrontation with Congress. In the 1950s and
1960s, disputes over the impoundment authority resulted from the refusal of successive
Presidents to fund certain weapons systems to the full extent authorized by Congress. These
confrontations between the President and Congress revolved around the constitutional role of
Commander-in-Chief and tended to focus on relatively narrow issues of weapons procurement.
President Johnson made broader use of his power to impound by ordering the deferral of billions
of dollars of spending during the Vietnam war in an effort to restrain inflationary pressures in the
economy. While some impoundments during these periods were motivated by policy concerns,
they typically involved temporary spending delays, with the President acting in consultation with
congressional leaders, so that a protracted confrontation between the branches was avoided.
Conflict over the use of impoundments greatly increased during the Nixon Administration and ndrd
eventually involved the courts as well as Congress and the President. In the 92 and 93
Congresses (1971-1974), the confrontation intensified as the President sought to employ the tool
of impoundment to reorder national priorities and alter programs previously approved by
Congress. Following President Nixon’s reelection in 1972, the Administration announced major
new impoundment actions affecting a variety of domestic programs. For example, a moratorium
was imposed on subsidized housing programs, community development activities were
suspended, and disaster assistance was reduced. Several farm programs were likewise targeted for
elimination. Perhaps the most controversial of the Nixon impoundments involved the Clean Water
Act funds. Court challenges eventually reached the Supreme Court, which in early 1975 decided 5
the case on narrower grounds than the extent of the President’s impoundment authority.
During these impoundment conflicts of the Nixon years, Congress responded not only with ad
hoc efforts to restore individual programs, but also with gradually more restrictive appropriations
language. Arguably, the most authoritative response was the enactment of the Impoundment 6
Control Act (ICA), Title X of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
As a result of a compromise in conference, the ICA differentiated deferrals, or temporary delays
in funding availability, from rescissions, or permanent cancellations of designated budget
authority, with different procedures for congressional review and control of the two types of
4 For a history of presidential impoundment before 1974, see Louis Fisher, Presidential Spending Power (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), pp. 147-201; and Ralph S. Abscal and John R. Kramer, “Presidential
Impoundment Part I: Historical Genesis and Constitutional Framework,” Georgetown Law Journal, vol. 62 (July 1974),
5 Train v. City of New York, 420 U.S. 35 (1975). For further discussion regarding the role of the courts in the
impoundment disputes during the Nixon Administration, see James P. Pfiffner, The President, the Budget, and
Congress: Impoundment and the 1974 Budget Act (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979), pp. 77-108.
6 P.L. 93-344, 88 Stat. 332. The ICA became effective upon signing of the law on July 12, 1974 . For further discussion
of the impoundment conflicts and the legislative history of the 1974 law, see Allen Schick, Congress and Money
(Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 1980), pp. 17-81.
impoundment.7 The 1974 law also required the President to inform Congress of all proposed
rescissions and deferrals and to submit specified information regarding each. The ICA further
required the Comptroller General to oversee executive compliance with the law and to notify
Congress if the President failed to report an impoundment or improperly classified an action.
The original language allowed a deferral to remain in effect for the period proposed by the
President (not to exceed beyond the end of the fiscal year so as to become a de facto rescission)
unless either the House or the Senate took action to disapprove it. Such a procedure, known as a
one-house legislative veto, was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in INS v. Chadha
(462 U.S. 919 (1983)). In May 1986 a federal district court ruled that the President’s deferral
authority under the ICA was inseverable from the one-house veto provision and hence was null;
the lower court decision was affirmed on appeal in City of New Haven v. United States (809 F.2d
In the case of a rescission, the ICA provided that the funds must be made available for obligation
unless both houses of Congress take action to approve the rescission request within 45 days of
“continuous session” (recesses of more than three days not counted). In practice, this usually
means that funds proposed for rescission not approved by Congress must be made available for
obligation after about 60 calendar days, although the period can extend to 75 days or longer.
Congress may approve all or only a portion of the rescission request. Congress may also choose
after the 45-day period to rescind funds previously requested for rescission by the President.
Congress does rescind funds never proposed for rescission by the President, but such action is not
subject to the ICA procedures.
The ICA establishes no procedures for congressional disapproval of a rescission request during
the 45-day period. However, some administrations have voluntarily followed a policy of releasing
funds before the expiration of the review period, if either the House or the Senate authoritatively
indicates that it does not intend to approve the rescission.
In the fall of 1987, as a component of legislation to raise the limit on the public debt (P.L. 100-
sometimes used by Presidents when Congress failed to act on a rescission proposal within the
allotted period, of submitting a new rescission proposal covering identical or very similar matter.
By using such resubmissions, the President might continue to tie up funds even though Congress,
by its inaction, had already rejected virtually the same proposal. The prohibition against such
seriatim rescission proposals contained in the 1987 law applies for the duration of the
appropriation, so that it may remain in effect for two or more fiscal years. Section 206 of P.L.
100-119 served to codify the decision in the New Haven case, allowing deferrals to provide for
contingencies, to achieve savings made possible through changes in requirements or efficiency of 8
operations, or as provided in statute. The ICA as amended no longer sanctions policy deferrals.
7 According to one account, “Written by the staff members who put together the final version of budget reform, Title X
was a novel combination of the House and Senate versions of the impoundment control bills.” See Joel Havemann,
Congress and the Budget (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978), pp. 178-179.
8 “Conference Report on House Joint. Resolution 324,” (H.Rept. 100-313), Congressional Record, vol. 133, Sept. 21,
1987, p. 24655.
The U.S. Constitution provides that the President may either sign a measure into law or veto it in
its entirety. However, constitutions in 43 states provide for an item veto (usually confined to
appropriation bills), allowing the Governor to eliminate discrete provisions in legislation
presented for signature. Ten states allow the governor to reduce amounts as well as eliminate
items, and seven States have an “amendatory” veto, permitting the governor to return legislation 9
with specific suggestions for change.
The first proposal to provide the President with an item veto was introduced in 1876. President
Grant endorsed the mechanism, in response to the growing practice in Congress of attaching
“riders,” or provisions altering permanent law, to appropriations bills. Over the years many bills
and resolutions (mainly proposed constitutional amendments) have been introduced, but action in
Congress on item veto proposals, beyond an occasional hearing, has been limited. In 1938 the
House approved an item veto amendment to the independent offices appropriations bill by voice
vote, but the Senate rejected the amendment. Contemporary proposals for item veto are usually
confined to bills containing spending authority, although not necessarily limited to items of
In the 101st Congress, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on
proposed constitutional amendments permitting an item veto on April 11, 1989, and reported two
such amendments, without recommendation, on June 8. S.J.Res. 14 would have allowed the
President to veto only selected items in an appropriations bill, while S.J.Res. 23 would have
authorized him to disapprove or reduce any item of appropriation, excluding legislative branch
items. On April 26, 1990, the full Judiciary Committee voted 8-6 to report both measures 10
favorably, but the report was not filed until September 19, 1990.
In the 102nd Congress, the House voted on language providing item veto authority for the
President. On June 11, 1992, during debate on H.J.Res. 290, proposing a constitutional
amendment requiring a balanced budget, the House rejected by vote of 170-258 an amendment by
Representative Kyl (H.Amdt. 602). The Kyl proposal sought to allow the President to exercise
item veto authority in signing any measure containing spending authority (broadly defined), limit
total outlays for a fiscal year to 19% of the gross national product of that year, and require a 11
three-fifths vote of the Congress to approve any additional funds.
Some contended that the President already had item veto authority as a part of his constitutional
powers. An article by Stephen Glazier, appearing in the Wall Street Journal on December 4, 1987,
advocated this position. While a minority interpretation, this view claims some notable
9 See U.S. Congress, House Committee on Rules, Item Veto: State Experience and its Application to the Federal
Situation, committee print, 99th Cong., 2nd sess., Dec. 1986 (Washington: GPO, 1986), pp. 47-49. Since that
compilation was printed, the Maine Constitution has been amended to grant the governor item veto authority.
10 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Line Item Veto, hearing on
S.J.Res. 14, S.J.Res. 23, and S.J.Res. 31, 101st Cong., 1st sess., Apr. 11, 1989 (Washington: GPO, 1991); and Line-Item stst
Veto, report to accompany S.J.Res. 14 and S.J.Res. 23, 101 Cong., 1 sess., S.Rept. 101-466 (Washington: GPO,
11 See CRS Report RL30223, Presidential Rescission Authority: Efforts to Modify the 1974 Framework, by Virginia A.
supporters.12 The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing
on June 15, 1994, to receive testimony on the subject.
Some continue to believe that a statutory framework (different from the Line Item Veto Act of
1996) may yet be devised to give the President authority akin to an item veto without the
necessity of a constitutional amendment. One statutory alternative entails bills incorporating the
separate enrollment approach, which stipulate that each item of an appropriations bill be enrolled
as a separate bill. Since 1985 such separate enrollment measures have been introduced repeatedly th
in the Senate. The Dole amendment to S. 4 in the 104 Congress, as passed by the Senate in th
March 1995 (S.Amdt. 347), incorporated the separate enrollment approach. In the 109 Congress,
H.R. 4889 likewise reflects this approach.
Consideration of impoundment reform became increasingly joined with the idea of an item veto.
During the Ford and Carter Administrations, the provisions of the ICA proved relatively
noncontroversial. Dissatisfaction increased during the Reagan Administration. President Reagan,
in his 1984 State of the Union message, specifically called for a constitutional amendment to
grant item veto authority, which he considered to be a “powerful tool” while Governor of
California. In his last two budget messages, President Reagan included enhanced rescission
authority among his budget process reform proposals. President George H. W. Bush also endorsed
the idea of expanded rescission authority and an item veto for the President. During the 1992
campaign, then-Governor Bill Clinton advocated a presidential item veto, and he subsequently
endorsed enhanced rescission authority. During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush went on
record in support of expanded rescission authority, and as President, he has repeatedly called for 13
some kind of item veto authority.
Instead of granting true item veto authority to the President via a constitutional amendment,
efforts came to focus on modifying the framework for congressional review of rescissions by the
President. Legislative activity directed toward granting the President expanded rescission
authority extended over several years. Such statutory alternatives sometimes have been referred
to as giving the President a “line item veto”; while the nomenclature is not technically correct, it
does call attention to some functional similarities.
In examining impoundment reform legislation, the distinction often has been drawn between
“enhanced” and “expedited” rescission proposals. With enhanced rescission, the intent is to
reverse the “burden of action” and thereby create a presumption favoring the President. Such
proposals usually stipulate that budget authority identified in a rescission message from the
President is to be permanently canceled unless Congress acts to disapprove the request within a
prescribed period. In contrast, the expedited rescission approach focuses on procedural changes in
Congress to require an up or down vote on certain rescission requests from the President. Such
measures contain expedited procedures to ensure prompt introduction of a measure to approve the
rescission, fast report by committee or automatic discharge, special limits on floor amendments
and debate, and so on. Under expedited rescission, congressional approval would still be
12 This interpretation was explored at a symposium held in 1988. See Pork Barrels and Principles: the Politics of the
Presidential Veto, by Charles J. Cooper et al. (Washington: National Legal Center, 1988).
13 For an examination of ICA rescission proposed by the respective Presidents, see CRS Report RL33869, Rescission
Actions Since 1974: Review and Assessment of the Record, by Virginia A. McMurtry.
necessary to cancel the funding, but it would become difficult to ignore proposed rescissions and
hence to reject them by inaction.
Some bills are “hybrids,” reflecting a combination of item veto and rescission language and
sometimes features of both expedited and enhanced approaches to rescission reform as well. H.R. th
Toward the end of the 102nd Congress, H.R. 2164, characterized by its supporters as a
compromise rescission reform measure agreeable to most sponsors of the other measures as well,
had over 220 cosponsors. For the first time an expanded rescission measure received favorable
floor action, when H.R. 2164 gained House approval on October 3, 1992, by vote of 312-97. The
measure would have established procedures for expedited congressional consideration of certain
rescission proposals from the President submitted not later than three days after signing an
appropriations act. Under the measure, the proposed rescission could not reduce a program below
the budget level of the previous year or by more than 25% for new programs. Funds would have 14
become available after a vote in Congress to reject the proposed rescission.
Consideration of expanded rescission bills resumed in the 103rd Congress. On two separate
occasions, the House passed expedited rescission measures. Meanwhile, on March 25, 1993, the
Senate adopted two sense of the Senate amendments relating to rescission reform as a part of the
Budget Resolution for FY1994. The conference version retained a single sense of the Senate
provision in this regard, stating the “President should be granted line-item veto authority over rd
items of appropriations and tax expenditures” to expire at the end of the 103 Congress.
H.Con.Res. 218, the Budget Resolution for FY1995, as adopted in May 1994, also contained
sense-of-the-House provisions regarding enactment of certain budget process legislation, 15
including expedited rescission authority for the President.
Action on an expanded rescission measure commenced early in the 104th Congress. This reflected
the results of the November midterm elections, which returned a Republican majority to both the
House and Senate. On September 28, 1994, many House Republican Members and candidates
signed the Republican Contract with America, which pledged action on a number of measures,
including a “legislative line item veto,” within the first 100 days, should a Republican majority be
Hearings began on January 12, 1995, when the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and
the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight held a joint hearing on H.R. 2, to
give the President legislative line item veto authority. On January 18, the Senate Budget
Committee held a hearing on related measures (S. 4, S. 14, and S. 206). The Senate Judiciary
Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on January 24 to consider constitutional
amendment proposals. On January 25, the House Committee on Government Reform and
14 CRS Report RL30223, Presidential Rescission Authority: Efforts to Modify the 1974 Framework, by Virginia A.
McMurtry, p. 8.
15 Ibid., pp. 9-10.
Oversight ordered H.R. 2 reported, as amended, and the next day the House Rules Committee 16
likewise reported a further amended version of H.R. 2.
House floor consideration of H.R. 2 commenced on February 2, 1995, on the version of H.R. 2
reported as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, with an open rule and over 30
amendments pending. The House debated the measure for three days during which time six
amendments were approved and 11 amendments were rejected, along with a motion to recommit
with instructions. On February 6, 1995, the House passed H.R. 2, as amended, by vote of 294-th
134. The date of passage had special meaning, as it was the 84 birthday of former President
Ronald Reagan, long a supporter of an item veto for the President.
On February 14, 1995, the Senate Budget Committee held markup on pending rescission
measures. The committee ordered S. 4, as amended, reported without recommendation, by vote of
nature of a substitute further amended, by vote of 13-8. The committee failed to order reported
proposed legislation to create a legislative item veto by requiring separate enrollment of items in
appropriations bills and targeted tax benefits in revenue bills.
On February 23, 1995, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on S. 4 and S.
14. There had been a joint hearing with the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee
on January 12, but some Senators on the committee, including the ranking minority member,
maintained that the additional hearing day was needed because they had been unable to attend in
January, due to competing duties that day on the Senate floor. On March 2, 1995, the
Governmental Affairs Committee held markup, with similar results as occurred in the Budget 18
Committee: both bills were ordered reported without recommendation. S. 4 was ordered
reported by voice vote; previously the Stevens amendment to the Glenn motion to report carried
by vote of 9-6. During markup of S. 14, the Pryor amendment to exempt budget authority for the
operations of the Social Security Administration from expedited rescission was adopted by voice
vote. S. 14 was then ordered reported by vote of 13-2.
In the Senate, general debate on the subject of item veto began on March 16; it continued on
March 17 and on March 20 until late in the afternoon, when floor consideration of S. 4 began.
The Republican leaders in the Senate reportedly delayed consideration of legislative line item
veto bills in hopes of developing a compromise measure that supporters of S. 4 and S. 14 could
all embrace. The “Republican compromise” substitute appeared as Dole Amendment No. 347 on
March 20; this substitute amendment incorporated the separate enrollment approach, which seeks
to confer item veto authority by statutory means. During consideration of S. 4 on March 20, two
perfecting amendments added by the Budget Committee were withdrawn; the provisions so
16 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Line Item Veto Act, report to accompany
H.R. 2, 104th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 104-11, part 2 (Washington: GPO, 1995); and House Committee on Rules, Line thst
Item Veto Act, report to accompany H.R. 2, 104 Cong., 1 sess., H.Rept. 104-11, part 1 (Washington: GPO, 1995).
17 U.S. Senate, Committee on the Budget, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 1995, report to accompany S. 4, 104th
Cong., 1st sess., S.Rept. 104-9 (Washington: GPO, 1995); and Senate Committee on the Budget, Legislative Line Item thst
Veto Act of 1995, report to accompany S. 14, 104 Cong., 1 sess., S.Rept. 104-10 (Washington: GPO, 1995).
18 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 1995, report to
accompany S. 4, 104th Cong., 1st sess., S.Rept. 104-13 (Washington: GPO, 1995); and Senate Committee on thst
Governmental Affairs, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 1995, report to accompany S. 14, 104 Cong., 1 sess., S.Rept.
104-14 (Washington: GPO, 1995).
deleted related to procedures for deficit reduction and to a sunset date for the enhanced rescission
authority (both are still found in S. 14).
Floor debate on S. 4 continued on March 21-23. Eight amendments were adopted by voice vote,
including the Dole Amendment itself, providing for separate enrollment for presentation to the
President of each item of any appropriation and authorization bill or resolution providing direct
spending or targeted tax benefits. The Senate ultimately passed S. 4, with the Dole Amendment in
the nature of a substitute and additional amendments, on March 23, 1995, by vote of 69-29.
The significant differences between the House-passed H.R. 2 (enhanced rescission approach), and
the Senate-passed S. 4 (separate enrollment approach), needed to be resolved in conference. On
May 17, 1995, the House passed S. 4, after agreeing to strike all after the enacting clause of
Senate-passed S. 4 and insert in lieu the language of the House-passed H.R. 2. The Senate agreed
to a conference and named eighteen conferees on June 20. On August 1, the Senate approved (83-
14) a Dorgan Amendment to H.R. 1905, FY1996 Energy and Water Appropriations, to express the
sense of the Senate that the House Speaker should move immediately to appoint conferees on S.
4. On September 7, 1995, the Speaker appointed eight House conferees, after a motion to instruct
conferees to make the bill applicable to current and subsequent fiscal year appropriation measures
was agreed to by voice vote.
The conference committee held an initial meeting on September 27, 1995, at which opening
statements were presented, and Representative Clinger was chosen as conference chairman. The
Members present then instructed staff to explore alternatives for reconciling the two versions. On
October 25, 1995, the House agreed to a motion to instruct the House conferees on S. 4 to insist
upon the inclusion of provisions to require that the bill apply to the targeted tax benefit provisions
of any revenue or reconciliation bill enacted into law during or after FY1995, by vote of 381-44.
The conferees met again on November 8, 1996, at which time the House Republicans on the
committee offered a compromise package. Some key elements included accepting the House
approach of enhanced rescission, using the Senate definition of “item” for possible veto, using
compromise language approved by the Joint Committee on Taxation for defining “targeted tax
benefits,” including new direct spending, accepting Senate “lockbox” language (designed to
ensure that any savings from cancellations could be used only for deficit reduction), and dropping
the Senate sunset proposal.
In his State of the Union message on January 23, 1996, President Clinton urged Congress to
complete action on a line item veto measure, stating “I also appeal to Congress to pass the line 19
item veto you promised the American people,” but negotiations apparently remained stalled.
Following return from the congressional recess in February, the pace of conference activity
appeared to pick up considerably. On March 14, 1996, Republican negotiators on the conference
committee reported that they had reached agreement on a compromise version of S. 4, and the 20
conference report was filed on March 21, 1996. Although there was no public conference
meeting for approval, the Republican negotiators obtained the signatures of a majority of
conferees, thus readying the conference report for final action.
19 U.S. President (Clinton), “Address Before Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union,” Jan. 23, 1996, Public
Papers of the Presidents, 1996, vol. I (Washington: GPO, 1997), p. 85.
20 U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, Line Item Veto Act, conference report to accompany S. 4, 104th Cong., 1st
sess., H.Rept. 104-491 (Washington: GPO, 1996).
The conference substitute reflected compromise between the House and Senate versions, although
the enhanced rescission approach of H.R. 2 rather than the separate enrollment framework of S. 4
was chosen. As in the November compromise package, new direct spending and certain targeted
tax benefits were subject to the new authority of the President as well as items of discretionary
spending in appropriation laws. The measure was to take effect on January 1, 1997, absent an
earlier balanced budget agreement, and would terminate on January 1, 2005. The Senate approved
the conference substitute on March 27, 1996, by vote of 69-31, and the House followed suit on 21
March 28, 1996, by vote of 232-177. President Clinton signed S. 4 on April 9, 1996.
The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 (LIVA) amended the Congressional Budget and Impoundment
Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-344), to give the President “enhanced rescission authority” to cancel
certain items in appropriations and entitlement measures and also certain narrowly applicable tax
breaks. The act authorized the President to cancel in whole any dollar amount of discretionary
budget authority (appropriations), any item of new direct spending (entitlement), or limited tax
benefits with specified characteristics, contained in a bill otherwise signed into law. The
cancellation was to take effect upon receipt in the House and Senate of a special notification
message. “Cancellation” in this context meant to prevent from having legal force; in other words,
provisions canceled never were to become effective unless Congress reversed the action of the
President by enacting a “disapproval bill.” The President was only to exercise the cancellation
authority if he determined that such cancellation would reduce the federal budget deficit and
would not impair essential government functions or harm the national interest; and then notified
the Congress in a special message of any such cancellation within 5 calendar days after enactment
of the law providing such amount, item, or benefit. The act provided 30 days for the expedited
congressional consideration of disapproval bills to reverse the cancellations contained in the
special messages received from the President. Detailed provisions for expedited consideration of 22
the disapproval bill in the House and Senate were outlined. The LIVA also contained a
“lockbox” procedure to help ensure that any savings from cancellations go toward deficit
reduction. This was to be accomplished by binding the new procedures to existing requirements
relating to discretionary spending limits and the PAYGO requirements of the Budget Enforcement
Act of 1990. To facilitate judicial review, the act provided for (1) expedited review by the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia of an action brought by a Member of Congress or an
adversely affected individual on the ground that any provision of this act violates the
Constitution; (2) review of an order of such Court by appeal directly to the Supreme Court; and
(3) expedited disposition of such matter by the Supreme Court. The act became effective on
January 1, 1997.
During 1997, the first year with the Line Item Veto Act in effect, several noteworthy
developments involved judicial challenges and the first use of the new authority by President
Clinton. In Congress, disapproval bills to overturn the cancellations by the President were
introduced, along with alternative measures for providing the President with expanded rescission
authority, bills to repeal the Line Item Veto Act, and even a bill to correct an apparent “loophole”
21 P.L. 104-130, 110 Stat. 1200.
22 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Rules, The Use and Application of the Line Item Veto Act, committee print,
104th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1997).
in the original Act. In 1998, there were additional court challenges, with the Supreme Court
eventually striking down the new law as unconstitutional.
On April 9, 1996 (the same day the Line Item Veto Act was signed by President Clinton), the
National Treasury Employees Union et al. filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief,
challenging the constitutionality of the new law in the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia (Civil Action No. 96-624). Only individuals “adversely affected” by the expanded
presidential authority, or Members of Congress, can bring action under the “expedited judicial
review” provision in the law. On July 3, 1996, a federal judge dismissed the case, ruling that the 23
union’s claims were “too speculative and remote” to provide legal standing under the law.
On January 2, 1997, the day after the Line Item Veto Act went into effect, another suit
challenging its constitutionality was filed in the same court (referred to as Byrd v. Raines). The
plaintiffs, led by Senator Robert Byrd, now included six Members of Congress: Senators Byrd,
Mark Hatfield, Daniel Moynihan, and Carl Levin, and Representatives David Skaggs and Henry
Waxman. Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines and Secretary of the
Treasury Robert Rubin were named as defendants, because of their responsibilities for
implementing key aspects of the law. The plaintiffs contended that the act violated the
constitutional requirements of bicameral passage and presentment “by granting to the President,
acting alone, the authority to ‘cancel’ and thus repeal provisions of federal law.”
On January 22, 1997, the Senate by unanimous consent agreed to S.Res. 21 to direct the Senate
Legal Counsel to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the name of the Senate in the
Byrd v. Raines case. During debate on S.Res. 21, Majority Leader Trent Lott noted that Title VII
of the Ethics in Government Act authorized such action by the Senate in any legal action “in
which the powers and responsibilities of the Congress under the Constitution are placed in issue.”
On March 21, 1997, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson heard oral arguments in
the case of Byrd v. Raines. Less than three weeks later, on April 10, Judge Jackson ruled that the
Line Item Veto Act was unconstitutional because it violated provisions of the Presentment Clause
in the Constitution (Article I, Section 7, Cl. 2). His ruling found that compared with permissible
delegations in the past, the Line Item Veto Act, “hands off to the President authority over
fundamental legislative choices.” In so doing, “Congress has turned the constitutional division of 24
responsibilities for legislating on its head.”
As already noted, the Line Item Veto Act provided for expedited judicial review, allowing for
appeal of a district court decision directly to the Supreme Court. Such a request was filed, and on
April 23, 1997, the Supreme Court agreed to an accelerated hearing. The Court heard oral
arguments on May 27 and announced its decision in Raines v. Byrd on June 26, 1997. In a 7-2
decision, the Court held that the Members of Congress challenging the law lacked legal standing,
so the judgment of the lower court (finding the act unconstitutional) was put aside and the Line
Item Veto Act remained in force. However, the Supreme Court confined its decision to the
23 NTEU v. United States, 929 F.Supp. 484, 488 (D.D.C. 1996).
24 Byrd v. Raines, 956 F.Supp. 25, 37-38 (D.D.C. 1997).
technical issue of jurisdiction and refrained from considering the underlying merits of the case 25
(i.e., whether the Line Item Veto Act was unconstitutional).
On August 11, 1997, President Clinton exercised his new veto authority for the first time by
transmitting two special messages to Congress, reporting his cancellation of two limited tax
benefit provisions in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-34), and one item of direct 26
spending in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33). Both measures had been signed
into law on August 5, 1997. The law provided a period of 30 calendar days of session after receipt
of a special message (only days when both the House and Senate are in session count) for
Congress to consider a disapproval bill under expedited procedures.
Upon reconvening in early September, Congress responded quickly to the President’s
cancellations, with the introduction of four disapproval bills. S. 1144 and H.R. 2436 sought to
disapprove the cancellation of the direct spending provision in P.L. 105-33, transmitted by the
President on August 11, 1997, and numbered 97-3, regarding Medicaid funding in New York. S.
1157 and H.R. 2444 sought to disapprove the cancellations of two limited tax benefit provisions
in P.L. 105-34, transmitted by the President on August 11, 1997, and numbered 97-1 and 97-2.
The first provision dealt with income sheltering in foreign countries by financial services
companies, and the second involved tax deferrals on gains from the sales of agricultural
processing facilities to farmer cooperatives. A compromise was apparently reached between the
White House and congressional leaders on the canceled tax benefit provisions; on November 8,
1997, the disapproval bill (H.R. 2444) was tabled in the House, and no further action occurred on
On October 6, 1997, President Clinton exercised the new authority to veto items in appropriations
bills by cancelling 38 projects contained in the FY1998 Military Construction Appropriations Act
(P.L. 105-45). On October 24, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 1292, with an
amendment to exclude two more of the projects from the disapproval bill, reflecting the wishes of
Senators from the states involved; there was no written report. On October 30, the Senate passed
S. 1292, after the committee amendment was withdrawn, disapproving 36 of the 38 cancellations,
by vote of 69-30. On November 8, 1997, the House passed its version of the disapproval bill,
H.R. 2631 (covering all 38 of the cancellations originally in the President’s message), by vote of
352-64. On November 9, the Senate passed H.R. 2631 by unanimous consent, precluding the
need for conference action, and clearing the disapproval measure for the President. On November
13, 1997, the President vetoed H.R. 2631, the first disapproval bill to reach his desk under the
provisions of the 1996 law. The House voted to override on February 5, 1998 (347-69), and the
Senate did likewise on February 25, 1998 (78-20); therefore, the disapproval bill was enacted
over the President’s veto (P.L. 105-159). (Cancellations under the Line Item Veto Act became
25 Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811 (1997).
26 The cancellation messages were published in the Federal Register and also as congressional documents. See Office
of Management and Budget “Cancellation Pursuant to the Line Item Veto Act: Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997,” Federal
Register, vol. 62, no. 155, Aug. 12, 1997, p. 43265; and Message from the President transmitting “A Cancellation of
Two Limited Tax Benefits Contained in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, pursuant to Public Law 104-130 Sec. 2(a),” thst
105 Cong., 1 sess., H.Doc. 105-116 (Washington: GPO, 1997). The Office of the Federal Register, Archives and
Records Administration assembled and continues to sponsor a site with the “History of Line Item Veto Notices,”
providing links to all 82 of the cancellation notices as they appeared in the Federal Register, along with other relevant
information, available electronically at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/nara004.html.
effective on the date the special message from the President was received by the House and
Senate, but the cancellations became null and void if a disapproval bill was enacted.)
On October 14, 1997, President Clinton vetoed 13 projects in the Department of Defense
Appropriations. On October 16, 1997, he used the cancellation authority on a provision in the
Treasury and General Government Appropriations relating to pension systems for federal
employees. On October 17, 1997, the President applied his veto to eight more projects, this time
in the Energy and Water Appropriations Act. On November 1, 1997, President Clinton exercised
his line-item veto authority in two appropriations acts, canceling seven projects in the VA/HUD
measure and three projects in the Transportation Act. On November 20, 1997, the President
canceled two projects from Interior and five from the Agriculture Appropriations Act. On
December 2, 1997, President Clinton exercised his line-item veto authority for a final time in one
of the 13 annual appropriations acts for FY1998, canceling a project in the Commerce-Justice-
State measure. This action brought the total of special messages in 1997 to 11, and the total 27
cancellations under the new law to 82.
Once the President used the new authority, other cases were expected to be brought by parties
who could more easily establish standing, having suffered ill effects directly as a result of the
cancellations. On October 16, 1997, two separate cases challenging the Line Item Veto Act were
initiated. A complaint was filed by the City of New York and other interested parties seeking to
overturn the cancellation of the new direct spending provision affecting Medicaid funding in the
Balanced Budget Act in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (case number
1:97CV02393). On the same day, the National Treasury Employees Union (who had brought the
first suit challenging the new law in the spring of 1996, even before it became effective), filed
another suit in district court, seeking to overturn the veto of the federal pension provision in the
Treasury Appropriations Act (case number 1:97CV02399). On October 21, 1997, a third case,
seeking to overturn the cancellation of the limited tax benefit affecting farm cooperatives, was
filed in the district court by Snake River Potato Growers, Inc. (case number 1:97CV02463). On
October 24, 1997, the cases of the three suits challenging the Line Item Veto Act, were combined,
placed in the random assignment pool, and ultimately reassigned to Judge Thomas Hogan. On
October 28, 1997, NTEU filed an amended complaint, challenging the specific application of the
cancellation authority (as well as the constitutionality of the law). A hearing on the consolidated
case was set for January 14, 1998.
Meanwhile, on December 19, 1997, the Clinton Administration conceded that the President’s
cancellation in October of the federal pension provision exceeded the authority conveyed in the
Line Item Veto Act. On January 6, 1998, Judge Hogan approved a negotiated settlement in the
suit between the Justice Department and the National Treasury Employees Union and ordered that
the previously canceled pension provision for an open season to switch pension plans be
reinstated. The order found that the President lacked authority to make this cancellation, and so it
was “invalid and without legal force and effect.” The NTEU’s constitutional challenge was
declared moot, but oral arguments for the two remaining parties in the consolidated case
challenging the law’s constitutionality were to proceed.
27 Enactment of P.L. 105-159, already noted, served to disapprove 38 cancellations in the Military Construction
Appropriations Act, and another cancellation was found impermissible under the law (discussed below). So 43 of the
original 82 cancellations were en force when the Supreme Court overturned the Line Item Veto Act in 1998.
On January 14, 1998, there was a three-hour hearing before Judge Hogan. Arguments were
presented by attorneys for the Idaho potato farmers group and for New York City and co-plaintiffs
in the cases involving cancellations by the President in August, 1997, of a limited tax benefit
provision and an item of new direct spending (affecting Medicaid funding). Judge Hogan on
February 12, 1998, issued his ruling, which held the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional, because
it “violates the procedural requirements ordained in Article I of the United States Constitution and 28
impermissibly upsets the balance of powers so carefully prescribed by its Framers.” On
February 20, 1998, the Justice Department appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, and on
February 27, 1998, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Clinton v. New York City on April 27,
1998. Both sides conceded that a true item veto, allowing the President to sign some provisions
and veto others when presented a piece of legislation, would be unconstitutional. The Solicitor
General sought to distinguish the President’s cancellation of provisions under the Line Item Veto
Act from a formal repeal of the provisions, but several of the Justices seemed skeptical. Another
key argument concerned the matter of delegation and whether the act conveys so much authority
to the President as to violate the separation of powers. The issue of standing for the two groups of
plaintiffs combined in the case also was examined. On June 25, 1998, the Court rendered its
decision, holding the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional, because its cancellation provisions
were in violation of procedures set forth in the Constitution’s presentment clause found in Article 29
I, section 7.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision there was some uncertainly regarding
how funding for projects canceled under the now unconstitutional law could be restored. In the
view of some, OMB might not be required to fund projects eliminated from appropriations acts,
because the cancellations in the consolidated case brought before the Supreme Court only
involved limited tax benefit and direct spending provisions. Some suggested that each affected
party might have to sue, as did New York City in the case decided by the Supreme Court.
Although it was widely expected that funding for projects not explicitly covered by the Supreme
Court decision would be restored, three weeks passed before the Justice Department and OMB
determined officially that the funds were to be released. On July 17, 1998, OMB announced that
funds for the remaining cancellations (those not overturned by previous litigation or the
disapproval bill covering the Military Construction appropriations) would be made available.
After the President exercised the new authority to cancel items in appropriations acts, bills were
introduced to repeal the Line Item Veto Act. On October 9, 1997, such a bill was introduced by th
Representative Skaggs (H.R. 2650, 105 Congress), and on October 24, 1997, a similar bill was th
introduced by Senators Byrd and Moynihan (S. 1319, 105 Congress).
Shortly after the district court decision in April 1997, expanded rescission measures were th
reintroduced in the 105Congress. On April 15, 1997, H.R. 1321, an expedited rescission rd
measure similar to that passed by the House in the 103 Congress, was introduced, and on the
following day, S. 592, a separate enrollment measure identical to S. 4 as passed by the Senate in
28 City of New York v. Clinton, and Snake River Potato Growers, Inc. v. Rubin, 985 F.Supp. 168 (D.D.C. 1998).
29 Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998). The decision is available online at http://supct.law.cornell.edu/
the 104th Congress, was introduced. Joint resolutions proposing an item veto constitutional
amendment were also introduced. Another bill introduced in the fall of 1997, H.R. 2649,
combined the features of H.R. 2650 (repealing the line-item veto) and H.R. 1321 (establishing a
framework for expedited rescission).
On March 11, 1998, the House Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process began
two days of hearings on the Line Item Veto Act. Although the principal focus of the hearing was
on the operation of the act during its first year, there was some consideration of possible
alternatives should the law be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
On June 25, 1998, the same day the Supreme Court held the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional,
three more bills were introduced. Two new versions of expedited rescission (similar but not
identical measures), seeking to apply expedited procedures to targeted tax benefits as well as to
rescissions of funding in appropriations measures, were introduced as H.R. 4174 and S. 2220 th
(105 Congress). A modified version of separate enrollment, applicable to authorizing legislation
containing new direct spending, as well as to appropriations measures, was introduced as S. 2221.
Upon convening of the 106th Congress in January 1999, measures were again introduced to
propose constitutional amendments giving the President line-item veto authority (H.J.Res. 9,
H.J.Res. 20, H.J.Res. 30, and S.J.Res. 31), and to provide alternative statutory means for
conveying expanded impoundment authority to the President (S. 100 and S. 139). Subsequently,
two expedited rescission bills were introduced in the House (H.R. 3442 and H.R. 3523).
On July 30, 1999, the House Rules Subcommittee on the Legislative and Budget Process held a
hearing to address the subject, “The Rescissions Process after the Line Item Veto: Tools for
Controlling Spending.” Testimony was received from the Office of Management and Budget, the
Congressional Budget Office, and the General Accounting Office, as well as from a panel of
On March 23, 2000, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing to
consider measures proposing a constitutional amendment for an item veto. Two Members testified
in support of H.J.Res. 9. A second panel, consisting of seven outside witnesses, provided various
viewpoints. During the presidential election campaign in 2000, the topic of expanded rescission
authority for the President received some attention, with both candidates on record in support of
In his budget message transmitted to Congress on February 28, 2001, President George W. Bush
endorsed several budget process reforms, including a call to “restore the President’s line item veto
authority.” In the subsequent discussion, the document suggested that the constitutional flaw in
the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 might be corrected by linking the line-item veto to retiring the
national debt.30 On April 9, 2001, President Bush transmitted to Congress a more detailed budget
for FY2002, without further mention of the line-item veto proposal.
In his budget submission for FY2003, sent to Congress on February 4, 2002, President Bush
again endorsed various proposals for reform of the budget process, including another try at
crafting a line-item veto that could pass constitutional muster. As described therein, the
President’s proposal would restore authority exercised by Presidents prior to 1974 (and the
restrictions imposed by the ICA). Specifically, the proposal “would give the President the
authority to decline to spend new appropriations, to decline to approve new mandatory spending,
or to decline to grant new limited tax benefits (to 100 or fewer beneficiaries) whenever the
President determines the spending or tax benefits are not essential Government functions, and 31
will not harm the national interest.”
In the 107th Congress, two measures proposing an item veto constitutional amendment were
introduced. H.J.Res. 23 sought to allow the President to disapprove any item of appropriation in
any bill. H.J.Res. 24 sought to allow the President to decline to approve (i.e., to item veto) any
entire dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or any
limited tax benefit. On March 28, 2001, during House consideration of H.Con.Res. 83 (FY2002 32
budget resolution), a substitute endorsed by Blue Dog Coalition was offered, which contained a
sense of the Congress provision calling for modified line-item veto authority to require
Congressional votes on rescissions submitted by the President; the amendment was rejected 204-
On October 9, 2002, the Congressional Budget Office estimated a total federal budget deficit of
about $157 billion for FY2002, reflecting the largest percentage drop in revenues in over 50 years
and the largest percentage growth in spending on programs and activities in 20 years. Some
hoped that the worsening deficit picture might stimulate renewed interest in mechanisms thought
conducive to spending control, such as a line-item veto or expanded impoundment authority for
In his budget submission for FY2004, President Bush repeated his request for legislation to
provide him with a “constitutional line-item veto” to use on “special interest spending items.”
While discussion the previous year had called for applying savings to debt reduction, the
explanation now suggested that all savings from the line-item veto would be designated for deficit 33
30 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America’s
Priorities (Washington: GPO, 2001), pp. 175-176.
31 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2003 Analytical Perspectives (Washington: GPO, 2002), pp.
32 The Blue Dog Coalition was organized in the 104th Congress as a policy-oriented group of moderate and
conservative Democrats. In the 109th Congress, its 37 members are geographically diverse, but the group’s nickname
reflects some southern ancestry. “Taken from the South’s longtime description of a party loyalist as one who would
vote for a yellow dog if it were on the ballot as a Democrat, the “Blue Dog” moniker was taken by members of the
coalition because their moderate-to-conservative views had been “choked blue” by their party in the years leading up to
the 1994 election.” See the group’s website at http://www.bluedogdems.com/what.html.
33 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2004 Analytical Perspectives (Washington: GPO, 2003), p. 318.
Early in the 108th Congress, H.R. 180, an omnibus budget reform measure, was introduced,
containing provisions for expedited procedures for congressional action on proposals from the
President to rescind budget authority identified as “wasteful spending” (Section 252). On April
11, 2003, during remarks on a forthcoming supplemental appropriations conference report, the
ranking member of the Appropriations Committee offered his observations on the demise of the 34
Line Item Veto Act of 1996. On June 16, 2003, H.J.Res. 60, proposing a constitutional
amendment to authorize the line-item veto, was introduced by Representative Andrews. On
November 19, 2003, S.J.Res. 25, proposing a constitutional amendment and reading, in part,
“Congress shall have the power to enact a line-item veto,” was introduced by Senator Dole.
In his budget submission for FY2005, transmitted February 2, 2004, President Bush again called
for legislation to provide him with a “constitutional line-item veto” linked to deficit reduction.
According to the explanation provided, such a device is needed to deal with spending or tax
provisions benefitting “a relative few which would not likely become law if not attached to other
bills.” The line-item veto envisioned would give the President authority “to reject new
appropriations, new mandatory spending, or limited grants of tax benefits (to 100 or fewer
beneficiaries) whenever the President determines the spending or tax benefits are not essential
Government priorities.” All savings resulting from the exercise of such vetoes would go to 35
reducing the deficit.
In the second session of the 108th Congress, additional budget reform measures were introduced
with provisions that would have granted expedited rescission authority to the President. The
budget resolution for FY2005 (S.Con.Res. 95), as approved by the Senate on March 11, 2004,
contained several Sense of the Senate provisions in Title V. Section 501, relating to budget
process reform, called for enactment of legislation to restrain government spending, including
such possible mechanisms as enhanced rescission or constitutional line-item veto authority for the
A bill in the 108th Congress, H.R. 3800, the Family Budget Protection Act of 2004, contained
expedited rescission provisions in Section 311; and H.R. 3925, the Deficit Control Act of 2004,
included such provisions in Section 301. On June 16, 2004, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal
endorsed H.R. 3800, offering special praise for its expedited rescission provisions: “Presidents
would have the power of rescission on line items deemed wasteful, which would then be sent
back to Congress for an expedited override vote.” Further, the editorial stated, the procedures
would preserve Congress’s power of the purse, and might also provide “a deterrent effect on the 36
porkers.” On June 24, 2004, provisions from H.R. 3800 were offered as a series of floor
amendments during House consideration of H.R. 4663, the Spending Control Act of 2004. An
amendment that sought to initiate expedited rescission for the President to propose the
elimination of wasteful spending identified in appropriations bills was rejected by a recorded vote
On August 3, 2004, the Kerry-Edwards [Democratic Party] plan “to keep spending in check while
investing in priorities and cutting wasteful spending” was released. Included in the presidential
campaign document was a proposal for expedited rescission authority, whereby the President
34 Sen. Robert Byrd, “A Constitutional Emergency Response Fund,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 149,
Apr. 12, 2003, p. S5398.
35 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2005 Analytical Perspectives (Washington: GPO, 2004), p. 285.
36 See “GOP Budget Revolt,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2004, pp. A12, A14.
could sign a bill and then send back to Congress a list of specific spending items and tax
expenditures of which he disapproved, for an expedited, up-or-down vote.
President Bush reiterated his support for restoring presidential line item veto authority in his
speech to the Republican national convention on September 2, 2004. At his first post-election
news conference, on November 4, 2004, in response to a question about reducing the deficit, he
stated, in part, that the president needed a line item that “passed constitutional muster,” in order
“to maintain budget discipline.” At a press conference on December 20, 2004, the President again
called for line item veto authority, responding that he had not yet vetoed any appropriations bills,
because Congress had followed up on his requested budget targets; but further observing, “Now I
think the president ought to have the line item veto because within the appropriations bills there
may be differences of opinion [between the executive branch and Congress] on how the money is 37
On January 31, 2006, in his State of the Union address, President Bush reiterated his request for
line-item veto authority, noting: “And we can tackle this problem [of too many special-interest 38
“earmark” projects] together, if you pass the line-item veto.” In his budget submission for
FY2006, transmitted February 7, 2005, President Bush called for a “line item veto linked to
On March 6, 2006, President Bush sent a draft bill titled the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 39
2006 to Congress, and the measure was introduced the next day (see H.R. 4890 and S. 2381
below). Title notwithstanding, the bills sought to amend the Impoundment Control Act of 1974
(ICA) to incorporate a typical expedited rescission framework, intended through procedural
provisions to require an up-or-down vote on presidential requests to cancel certain previously
enacted spending or tax provisions. Since congressional approval would remain necessary for the
rescissions to become permanent, expedited rescission is generally viewed as a weaker tool than
an item veto. H.R. 4890 and S. 2381, as introduced, also contained rather novel provisions
authorizing the President to withhold funds proposed for rescission or to suspend execution of
items of direct spending for up to 180 days. These provisions arguably might sanction the return
of policy deferrals, originally provided for in the ICA, subject to a one-house veto, but invalidated 40
by the Chadha and New Haven decisions, as well as the statutory provisions in P.L. 100-119.
On March 15, 2006, the House Rules Subcommittee on the Legislative and Budget Process held a
hearing on H.R. 4890. Testimony was received from Representative Paul Ryan, sponsor of H.R.
The Deputy Director of OMB and the Acting Director of CBO also appeared before the
37 Press Conference of President George W. Bush, Dec. 20, 2004. Available electronically at
38 U.S. President (George W. Bush), “Address before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union,”
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, vol. 42, Feb. 6, 2006, p. 145.
39 President’s message, along with press briefing and fact sheet available electronically at http://www.whitehouse.gov/
40 See above, p. 4. For a discussion of possible constitutional issues in measures in the 109th Congress, see CRS Report
RL33365, Line Item Veto: A Constitutional Analysis of Recent Proposals, by Morton Rosenberg.
subcommittee.41 On April 27, 2006, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a
hearing on the line item veto and received testimony from Representatives Paul Ryan and Mark
Kennedy; and from two attorneys, Charles J. Cooper in private practice, and Cristina Martin
Firvida of the National Women’s Law Center. On May 2, the Senate Budget Committee held a
hearing on S. 2381; witnesses included Senator Robert Byrd, Austin Smythe from OMB, Donald
Marron from CBO, Louis Fisher from the Library of Congress, and attorney Charles J. Cooper.
The House Budget Committee held two hearings on H.R. 4890, on May 25 and June 8, 2006. The
first day focused on “Line-Item Veto: Perspectives on Applications and Effects” and featured four
witnesses representing private sector groups, including a former Member and two former
congressional aides. The second hearing concentrated on constitutional issues, with testimony
received from Charles Cooper, Louis Fisher, and Professor Viet D. Dinh from the Georgetown 42
University Law Center.
On June 14, the House Budget Committee held markup of H.R. 4890. Representative Paul Ryan
offered a substitute amendment, which was further amended. An amendment offered by
Representative Cuellar to add a sunset provision, whereby the act would expire after six years,
was approved by voice vote. Also successful was an amendment offered by Representative Neal,
as further amended by Representative McCotter, expressing the sense of Congress regarding
possible abuse of proposed cancellation authority: no President or other executive official should
make any decision for inclusion or exclusion of items in a special message contingent upon a
Members’ vote in Congress. The Ryan substitute, as amended, was adopted by voice vote. The 43
Committee then voted 24-10 to report the bill favorably.
Several amendments offered by minority Members were rejected, generally with a straight party-
line vote. Democrats sought to exempt future changes in Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’
entitlement programs from possible cancellations under the LLIVA. Democrats also attempted
unsuccessfully to restore pay-as-you-go budget rules, to strengthen requirements for earmark
disclosures, and to facilitate enforcement of the three-day lay-over rule for appropriations bills
before floor votes.
On June 15, the House Rules Committee met to markup H.R. 4890 and voted 8-4 to approve a 44
substitute amendment containing the same version as approved by the Budget Committee.
Several changes in the substitute version addressed concerns with the bill as introduced. For
example, in response to concern expressed over a return to policy deferrals by allowing the
President to withhold spending for up to 180 calendar days, the substitute would allow the
President to withhold funds for a maximum of 90 calendars days (an initial 45 day period, which
could be extended for another 45 days). Submission of special rescission or cancellation messages
by the President would occur only within 45 days of enactment of the measure, and the President
would be limited to submission of five special messages for each regular act and 10 messages for
41 Hearing testimony available electronically at http://www.rules.house.gov/legbudg/hearings/lineitemveto/
42 Both hearings available electronically at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/house/budget/index.html.
43 See U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Budget, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006, report to accompany
H.R. 4890, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Rept. 109-505, part 1 (Washington: GPO, 2006).
44 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Rules, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006, report to accompany H.R. 4890,
109th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Rept. 109-505, part 2 (Washington: GPO, 2006).
an omnibus measure. Submission of duplicative proposals in separate messages would be
On the other hand, some changes in the substitute version approved by the Budget and Rules
Committees, and subsequently by the full House, arguably might be subject to additional
critiques. The substitute narrowed the definition of a targeted tax benefit to a revenue-losing
measure affecting a single beneficiary, with the chairs of the Ways and Means and Finance
Committees to identify such provisions. The definition in H.R. 4890 as introduced referred to
revenue-losing measures affecting 100 or fewer beneficiaries, as did the Line Item Veto Act of
1996. The bill as introduced, however, would have allowed the President to identify the
provisions by default, whereas the 1996 law assigned the duty to the Joint Committee on
Taxation. Supporters of the substitute version suggested that it would treat targeted tax benefits
comparably to earmarks in appropriations bills. Critics countered that the new definition was too 45
narrow, and that few tax benefits would be subject to cancellation.
On June 21, the House Rules Committee voted to report H.Res. 886, providing for the 46
consideration of H.R. 4890, as amended, favorably by a nonrecord vote. A manager’s
amendment offered by Representative Paul Ryan was adopted as a part of the rule for debate. In
response to concerns raised by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the amendment
added clarifying language that any amounts cancelled which came from a trust fund or special
fund would be returned to the funds from which they were originally derived, rather than revert to
the General Fund. The following day the House took up H.R. 4890, approved the rule (H.Res. 47
886) by vote of 228-196, and passed the measure by vote of 247-172. A motion by
Representative Spratt to recommit H.R. 4890 to the Budget Committee with instructions to report
it back to the House with an amendment was rejected by vote of 170-249.
Meanwhile, on June 20, 2006, the Senate Budget Committee marked up S. 3521, the Stop Over
Spending Act of 2006, an omnibus budget reform measure containing provisions for expedited 48
rescission in Title I. Minority amendments to exclude Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans’
Health Programs from possible rescissions were rejected 10-12 on party-line votes. A manager’s
amendment was adopted by voice vote, which among other things would prohibit the
resubmission of items of direct spending or targeted tax benefits previously rejected by Congress,
but would allow the President to resubmit proposed cancellations if Congress failed to complete
action on them due to adjournment. Whereupon the committee voted 12-10 to report S. 3521, as 49
amended, favorably. The report to accompany S. 3521 was filed on July 14, 2006.
On June 27, 2006, the President met with some Senators at the White House to discuss the
Legislative Line Item Veto bill, and he subsequently urged that the Senate act quickly to approve
45 For further discussion of different versions and analysis, see CRS Report RL33517, Legislative Line Item Veto Act of
2006: Background and Comparison of Versions, by Virginia A. McMurtry.
46 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Rules, Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4890, Legislative Line Item Veto Act
of 2006, report to accompany H.Res. 886, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Rept. 109-518 (Washington: GPO, 2006).
47 “Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006,” debate and vote in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol.
152, June 22, 2006, pp. H4433-41, H4467-93.
48 For further discussion of this bill, see CRS Report RL33547, S. 3521, the Stop Over Spending Act of 2006: A Brief
Summary, by Bill Heniff Jr.
49 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Budget, The Stop Over Spending Act of 2006, report to accompany S. 3521,
109th Cong., 2nd sess., S.Rept. 109-283 (Washington: GPO, 2006).
such a measure.50 Despite the White House lobbying effort, press accounts questioned the th
likelihood of further Senate action in the 109Congress. As reported in a story on July 20, 2006,
“Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-NH, all but pronounced the White House’s item veto
proposal dead for the year, telling reporters that the Bush Administration had not worked 51
aggressively enough to round up the votes.” According to a similar story appearing the same
Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-NH, conceded this week that his budget overhaul
package (S. 3521), which includes a sunset commission, line-item rescission authority and
other budget enforcement measures has little chance of passage. Supporters have been unable
to overcome Democratic opposition and a reluctance among some Republicans to address it 52
in an election year.
In addition to the alternative of possible action on S. 3521, the Senate could have chosen to
consider a stand alone item veto measure, such as H.R. 4890, as passed by the House, or S. 2381.
A news story published shortly before Congress departed for the August recess suggested that the
issue remained an open question: “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, has made no
decisions about timing or which [line item rescission measure] to bring up, and is taking a wait-53
and-see approach to the White House lobbying effort.” None of these bills, however, saw floor th
action in the Senate before the 109 Congress adjourned.
H.R. 982 (Mark Udall). Expedited Rescissions Act of 2005. Amends the ICA to provide for
expedited consideration of certain rescissions of budget authority proposed by the President.
Introduced on February 17, 2005; referred jointly to Committees on Budget and on Rules.
H.R. 2290 (Hensarling). Family Budget Protection Act. Omnibus budget reform bill. Section 311
establishes expedited procedures for congressional consideration of certain rescission proposals
from the President. Similar expedited rescission provisions were considered by the House in 2004
and rejected by vote of 174-237. Introduced on May 11, 2005; referred to the Committee on the
Budget and in addition to the Committees on Rules, Ways and Means, Appropriations, and
Government Reform for consideration of those provisions falling within their respective
H.R. 4699 (Mark Udall). Stimulating Leadership in Cutting Expenditures (SLICE) Act of 2006.
Amends the ICA to provide for expedited consideration of certain presidential proposals for
rescission of budget authority contained in appropriation acts or in P.L. 109-59 (omnibus
transportation authorization law). Introduced on February 1, 2006; referred jointly to Committees
on Budget and on Rules.
50 See White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: the Legislative Line-Item Veto: Constitutional,
Effective, and Bipartisan,” June 27, 2006, available electronically at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/
51 Peter Cohn, “Chances Poor for Line-Item Veto Legislation,” Congress Daily AM, July 20, 2006, p. 1.
52 Steven T. Dennis, “White House Casts Lifeline to Try to Rescue Line-Item Rescission Authority,” CQToday, June
20, 2006, p. 9.
53 Peter Cohn, “Portman Upbeat on Line Item Veto But 60 Votes Still an Elusive Target,” Congress DailyAM, July 26,
2006, p. 15.
H.R. 4889 (Gingrey). Separate Enrollment and Line Item Veto Act of 2006. Requires separate
enrollment of each item of appropriation or authorization in measures passed by both Houses in
identical form and provides for congressional consideration of such bills. (Similar to S. 4 as
passed by the Senate on March 23, 1995.) Introduced on March 7, 2006; referred to the Budget
H.R. 4890 (Paul Ryan)/S. 2381(Frist). Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006. Amends the ICA
of 1974 to provide for expedited consideration of certain rescissions of budget authority or
cancellation of targeted tax benefits proposed by the President in special messages. Requires any
rescinded discretionary budget authority or items of direct spending to be dedicated to deficit
reduction. Grants the President authority to withhold funds proposed for rescission or to suspend
execution of direct spending and targeted tax benefits. Both bills introduced on March 7, 2006.
H.R. 4890 referred jointly to Committees on Budget and on Rules; S. 2381 referred to Budget
Committee. Reported favorably, as amended, by House Budget Committee on June 16 (H.Rept.
109-505 Part 1), and by Rules Committee on June 19, 2006 (H.Rept. 109-505 Part 2). Passed
House, as amended, by vote of 247-172 on June 22, 2006.
H.R. 5667 (Spratt). Deficit Reduction and Effective Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006.
Amends the ICA of 1974 to provide for expedited consideration of certain cancellations of
discretionary budget authority and targeted tax benefits. Provides for other budget process
reforms. Introduced on June 21, 2006; referred to Committees on Budget, on Rules, and
Standards of Official Conduct.
H.J.Res. 63 (Mark Kennedy). Constitutional amendment. Allows the President to disapprove an
item of appropriation in any bill. Introduced on July 29, 2005; referred to Judiciary Committee.
H.J.Res. 67 (Platts). Constitutional amendment. Allows the President to decline to approve in
whole any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or
any tax benefit. Introduced on September 21, 2005; referred to the Judiciary Committee.
S. 2372 (Kerry). Expedited Budget Item Veto Review Act of 2006. Amends the ICA to provide
for expedited consideration of certain proposed cancellations of appropriations, new direct
spending, and limited tax provisions. Introduced on March 6, 2006; referred to the Budget
S. 3521 (Gregg). Stop Over Spending Act of 2006. An omnibus budget reform bill. Title I, the
Legislative Line Item Veto Act, amends the ICA of 1974 to provide for expedited consideration of
certain rescissions of budget authority or cancellation of targeted tax benefits proposed by the
President. Introduced on June 15, 2006; referred to the Budget Committee. Committee voted 21-
S.J.Res. 26 (Dole). Constitutional amendment. Grants Congress the power to enact a line-item
veto. Introduced on September 27, 2005; referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Early in the 110th Congress, line item veto measures received Senate floor consideration. On
January 10, 2007, Senator Judd Gregg introduced “The Second Look at Wasteful Spending Act of
2007”54 as an amendment ( S.Amdt. 17 to S.Amdt. 3 to S. 1) to the Legislative Transparency and
Accountability Act of 2007, an ethics and lobbying reform bill. According to Senator Gregg, the
language in S.Amdt. 17 was similar to the expedited rescission provisions contained in a
Democratic amendment, known as the Daschle substitute, offered in 1995 during Senate 55
consideration of the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. The Bush Administration went on record in
support of S.Amdt. 17: “The Administration strongly supports Senator Gregg’s legislative line 56
item veto amendment—an initiative that is consistent with the President’s goals.”
S.Amdt. 17 would have provided for expedited consideration of certain rescissions of
discretionary or new mandatory spending or cancellation of targeted tax benefits proposed in
special messages from the President. The President could submit up to four rescission packages a
year (once with the Budget and three other times at the President’s choosing). The President could
withhold funding contained in a special message for up to 45 days. The new authority would
expire in four years.
At one point, it appeared that the ethics and lobbying reform measure might become stalled, with
the minority leader insisting on a vote on the Gregg amendment before proceeding to final action 57
on S. 1. An agreement was worked out, however, between the majority leader and the minority
leader, with a promise of a vote on the line item veto amendment during debate on the minimum
wage bill (H.R. 2) the following week. On January 18, 2007, S.Amdt. 17 was withdrawn, and S. 1 58
passed by vote of 96-2.
In accordance with the leadership agreement, Senator Gregg filed another amendment (S.Amdt.
ensued. Senator Gregg noted “one major change” in provisions from the previous S.Amdt. 17
incorporated into S.Amdt. 101: addition of the right to strike. During consideration of a rescission
package proposed by the President, a Senator, with the support of 11 others, could move to strike
one or more of the rescissions included in the bill; in other words, Congress could amend the
President’s proposal by deleting selected items. Senator Gregg suggested that this change brought
S.Amdt. 101 even more in line with the Daschle substitute in 1995. He also observed that several 60
of the 20 cosponsors of the previous Daschle amendment were still in the Senate.
Senator Kent Conrad, chair of the Budget Committee, suggested that the two amendments
differed in important respects. The Gregg amendment would allow the President to propose
rescinding items of new direct spending in programs such as Medicare, whereas the Daschle
amendment did not cover such mandatory spending. The Gregg amendment would permit the
President to propose rescissions from multiple bills in one rescission package whereas the
54 For the text of S.Amdt. 17, see Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 10, 2007, pp. S397-S399. For
initial debate on S.Amdt. 17, see ibid., pp.S336-S341.
55 See “Daschle (and Others) Amendment No, 348,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 141, Mar. 21, 1995, pp.
56 “Administration Supports Legislative Line Item Veto Amendment to Senate Bill,” press release from Office of
Management and Budget, Jan. 10, 2007.
57 “Senate Debate on Reform Measure Stalls Over Amendment to Provide Line-Item Veto,” Daily Report for
Executives, Jan. 18, 2007.
58 “Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 18,
2007, p. S746.
59 For text of S.Amdt. 101, see Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 22, 2007, pp. S863-S866.
60 Ibid., pp. S792-S793.
Daschle amendment would require that a presidential rescission package cover just one bill.
According to Senator Conrad, this latter arrangement would give the President less leverage over 61
an individual member.
Debate on S.Amdt. 101 resumed on January 24, 2007. A vote to invoke cloture on the line item 62
veto amendment failed to attain the necessary 60 votes (49-48). The amendment was
subsequently set aside, and formally withdrawn on January 31.
In his budget submission for FY2008 transmitted on February 5, 2007, President Bush once again
called for enactment of a line item veto mechanism, such as the Administration’s proposal from 63
March 2006, that “would withstand constitutional challenge.”
Expedited rescission bills have been introduced in the House in the 110th Congress (see below).
On the same day as the cloture motion on the Gregg line item veto proposal failed in the Senate,
Representative Paul Ryan, ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, along with 83
cosponsors, introduced H.R. 689, the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2007. H.R. 689 is nearly th
identical to H.R. 4890 as passed by the House in the 109 Congress.
On April 23, 2007, companion bills titled the Congressional Accountability and Line-Item Veto
Act were introduced as H.R. 1998 by Representative Paul Ryan, and as S. 1186 by Senator
Russell Feingold. In his introductory remarks, Senator Feingold sought to differentiate this
measure from previous bills, noting the following:
There have been a number of so-called line-item veto proposals offered in the past several
years. But the measure Congressman Ryan and I propose today is unique in that it
specifically targets the very items that every line-item veto proponent cites when promoting a
particular measure, namely earmarks. When President Bush asked for this kind of authority,
the examples he gave when citing wasteful spending he wanted to target were congressional 64
The universe of items subject to rescission or cancellation by the President in S. 1186 shows th
noteworthy differences from those contained in the 109 Congress bills, as passed by the House
(H.R. 4890) and reported in the Senate (S. 3521, Title I). Instead of allowing the President to
propose rescission of any amount of discretionary spending in appropriations acts, et al. (as do the th
109 bills), in H.R. 1998/S. 1186 the newly expedited rescission authority only would apply to
“congressional earmarks” (as defined in the bill). The provisions regarding the cancellation of
limited tax benefits seen in H.R. 1998/S. 1186 reflect language both from the House-passed bill
(chairmen of Ways and Means and Finance Committees to identify them) and Senate-reported
version (applicable to any revenue-losing provisions affecting a single or limited group). Most
significantly, perhaps, under H.R. 1998/S. 1186, the expedited rescission authority would cover th
no mandatory spending, but in a departure from provisions in the bills receiving action in the109
Congress, would apply to limited tariff benefits.
61 Ibid., pp. S797-S798.
62 Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 24, 2007, p. S746.
63 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2008 Analytical Perspectives (Washington: GPO, 2007), p. 219.
64 Remarks by Senator Feingold accompanying the introduction of S. 1186, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol.
153, April 23, 2007, p. S4852.
The 110th Congress bills, H.R. 1998 and S. 1186, have some provisions similar to those seen in th
one or more bills from the 109 Congress. For example, language in H.R. 1998/S. 1186 regarding th
the relationship with the ICA parallels that in the House-passed version of H.R. 4890, 109
Congress, as does the language regarding seriatim rescissions, abuse of the proposed cancellation
authority, and using any savings for deficit reduction. The expedited congressional procedures in thth
the 109, compared with the 110, bills are virtually the same.
In most cases, when provisions in H.R. 1998/S. 1186 differ from those in the 109th Congress bills,
the new features serve to further confine the boundaries of the additional rescission authority to
be granted the President. The deadline for submission of special rescissions or cancellation
messages under H.R. 1998/S. 1186 would be within 30 days of enactment, compared to 45 days th
in the House-passed bill in the 109 Congress and one year in the Senate-reported bill (S. 3521,
Title I). In a similar manner, S. 1186 would set a limit of one special message for each act, except
for an omnibus budget reconciliation or appropriations measure when two special messages
would be allowed.
On the other hand, stipulations regarding deferrals (withholding of spending) by the President in
S. 1186 appear to be less restrictive than those found in the House-passed and Senate-reported th
versions in the 109 Congress. Both H.R. 4890 as passed by the House and S. 3521 as reported,
allowed withholding for a period not to exceed 45 calendar days. S. 1186 would permit the
President to withhold funding for designated earmarks or suspend execution of limited tax or 65
tariff benefits for a period of 45 calendar days of continuous session. In addition, S. 1186 would
allow the extension of the withholding for another 45-day period if the President submits a
supplemental message between days 40 and 45 in the original period. Under the ICA, the
President likewise may withhold funds included in a rescission request for 45 calendar days of
continuous session, which often equals 60 or more calendar days. Under the provisions in H.R.
As noted already, the original Administration bill in 2006 allowed the President to withhold funds
for 180 calendar days. In 2006, some contended that the 180-day withholding mechanism
arguably might be viewed as sanctioning the return of policy deferrals, originally provided for in
the ICA, subject to a one-house veto, but invalidated by the Chadha and New Haven decisions, as 66
well as the statutory provisions in P.L. 100-119. The extension of the withholding period in H.R.
1998/S. 1186 conceivably to over 100 days, compared with the 45-calendar-day period in the
House-passed and Senate-reported bills, might arguably be appraised as representing a de facto
return to policy deferrals.
Two constitutional amendment proposals are pending in the 110th Congress. H.J.Res. 38 would
allow the President to decline to approve any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any
65 S. 1186 contains a definition for “calendar day” as “a standard 24-hour period beginning at midnight,” but does not
define “calendar day of continuous session.” There is a definition of the “prescribed 45 day period” in the ICA,
however, which stipulates “Continuity of a session of the Congress shall be considered as broken only by an
adjournment of the Congress sine die, and the days on which either House is not in session because of an adjournment
of more than 3 days to a day certain shall be excluded from the computation of the 45-day period.” P.L. 93-344, Sect.
101(5). The phrase “calendar days of continuous session” generally means that days falling in recesses longer than
three days are not counted.
66 For further discussion of policy deferrals, see CRS Issue Brief IB89148, available from author upon request. For
further discussion of possible constitutional issues, see CRS Report RL33365, Line Item Veto: A Constitutional
Analysis of Recent Proposals, by Morton Rosenberg.
item of new direct spending, or any tax benefit. This coverage is similar to that seen previously in
the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. S.J.Res. 27 would allow the President to reduce or disapprove
any appropriation in a measure presented to him; after so “amending” the measure, the President
may sign the legislation as modified into law.
H.R. 595 (Mark Udall and Paul Ryan). Stimulating Leadership in Limiting Expenditures Act of
2006. Amends the ICA to provide for expedited consideration of certain presidential proposals for
rescission of budget authority contained in appropriation acts. Introduced on January 19, 2007;
jointly referred to Committees on Budget and on Rules.
H.R. 689 (Paul Ryan et al.). Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2007. Amends the ICA of 1974 to
provide for expedited consideration of certain rescissions of discretionary budget authority or
cancellation of an item of new direct spending, limited tariff benefit, or targeted tax benefits
proposed by the President in a special message. Dedicates any savings only to deficit reduction or
increase of a surplus. Introduced on January 24, 2007; jointly referred to Committees on Budget
and on Rules.
H.R. 1375 (Buchanan). Earmark Accountability and Reform Act of 2007. Amends the ICA of
1974 to provide for expedited consideration of certain rescissions of discretionary budget
authority or cancellation of an item of new direct spending or targeted tax benefit proposed by the
President in a special message. Dedicates any cancellation only to deficit reduction or increase of
a surplus. Amends House Rules to provide that any earmark not contained in House- or Senate-
passed versions be deemed out of scope in conference. Introduced on March 7, 2007; referred
jointly to Committees on Budget and on Rules.
H.R. 1998 (Paul Ryan). Congressional Accountability and Line-Item Veto Act. Amends the ICA
of 1974 to authorize the President to propose in a special message the repeal of any congressional
earmark or the cancellation of any limited tariff benefit or targeted tax benefit. Provides expedited
procedures for congressional consideration of the proposals contained in special messages.
Dedicates any savings from a repeal or cancellation only to deficit reduction or increase of a
surplus. Introduced on April 23, 2007; referred jointly to Committees on Budget and on Rules.
H.R. 2084 (Hensarling). Family Budget Protection Act. Omnibus budget reform bill. Section 311
establishes expedited procedures for congressional consideration of certain rescission proposals
from the President. Similar expedited rescission provisions were considered by the House in 2004
and rejected by vote of 174-237. Introduced on May 1, 2007; referred to the Committee on the
Budget and in addition to the Committees on Rules, Ways and Means, Appropriations, and
Government Reform for consideration of those provisions falling within their respective
H.J.Res. 38 (Platts). Constitutional amendment. Allows the President to decline to approve in
whole any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or
any tax benefit. Introduced on February 27, 2007; referred to the Judiciary Committee.
S. 1186 (Feingold). Congressional Accountability and Line-Item Veto Act. Companion bill to
H.R. 1998 (see above). Introduced on April 23, 2007; referred to the Budget Committee.
S.J.Res. 25 (Dole). Constitutional amendment. Allows the President to reduce or disapprove any
appropriation in any bill, order, resolution, or vote which is presented to him. Introduced on
December 11, 2007; referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Virginia A. McMurtry
Specialist in American National Government