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The Big Apple takes a bite out of Bill Clinton’s powers (Clinton v. City of New York)

Quimbee: Clinton v. City of New York

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In 1996, Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act. The act allowed the president to veto line items, meaning specific provisions, within legislation related to discretionary budget authority, new direct spending, or limited tax benefits without vetoing the remainder of the act.

The following year, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act. President Bill Clinton exercised his statutory authority to cancel two provisions in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which amounted to $2.6 billion that the City of New York owed to the federal government in disputed Medicaid repayments.

The City of New York and several organizations – including a group of Idaho potato growers – brought suit to challenge the president’s line-item veto. The challengers argued that the Line Item Veto Act was a violation of the Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution, which made no provision for line-item vetoes.

Ultimately, the case came before the United States Supreme Court. The Court struck down the act on the grounds that it impermissibly expanded the president’s veto power.

Namely, the law allowed the president to cancel provisions of passed bills, effectively allowing the president to amend passed legislation rather than veto pending legislation. Further, the act allowed the president to cancel only a part of a bill, but the Constitution limits the president’s constitutional veto power to refusing to sign the whole bill.

The Court struck down the act. Granting the president line-item veto power would require a constitutional amendment.

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