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iamthemob's avatar

Do you think a line item veto on budget items that would apply only to budget expenditures would be a good idea?

Asked by iamthemob (17191points) March 12th, 2011

Line-item vetoes are a dangerous thing potentially, considering that there is the possibility of abuse and the high majority it generally takes for the legislature to overturn the veto.

But, what about a limited veto on expenditures? Considering the spending insanity in the federal government today, there is pretty much one thing I think we can all agree on…we need less of it.

A line item on the budget generally would, of course, allow for partisan action on cuts by the Executive – increasing spending potentially. However, if it were only about expenditures, we’d know that we were really only spending on things that most of us – or at least our representatives – would agree on.

What do people thing? What are the problems…and are there ways this could be controlled for?

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9 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

I would trust some presidents with this power but not others. The problem is once enacted, it’s there for all. It becomes way too easy to allow rewards for some and deny them for others. Load up the pork for your side and allow the other guys to do the same so they will vote for your bill. Knowing full well the president will scratch out the other guys while leaving yours alone. It really scares me.

20 years ago (when I was a bit naive) I would have jumped on this as a solution. Now I’m very skeptical. And the politics in Washington have gotten really dirty. There does not seem to be any sense of fair play regardless of which side you’re on.

I like the idea of line item veto a lot but I have never been able to come with a scheme to nullify the downside. And I think the downside is huge. Consequently, I could not support it.

iamthemob's avatar


Good point. What if there was a lower supermajority in place for an override of the veto. Not ⅔…but 60%?

Further, considering that technically floor debates are public (and I know this doesn’t stop back-door deals), and the fact that the budget is annual, do you think that this is something that would be regular?

Also, since the budget is initially proposed by the President, should it be that only the additional expenditures are subject to the cuts? Or that the cuts are limited to a percentage of the overall budget, and must be distributed evenly over all departments if utilized?

Jaxk's avatar

I not sure any of those would reduce the risk. It’s worrisome that the process could turn into a ‘load it up’ to make sure some of your stuff gets through. The best solution would be to have congress eliminate the pork and earmark process. If it doesn’t pertain it doesn’t get into the bill.

The main problem is that power has been shifting to the executive branch at an alarming rate. This type of change would shift a lot of power from congress to the the president. It troubles me. And I will add that if a Republican were in office it would still trouble me. This is not an Obama thing. It is a fairly significant shift in the balance of power.

As for the majority shift you describe, That’s a tough one. I assume we are only talking about line item vetos rather than all vetos. Which complicates the issue. But even then I don’t see it as a solution.

We already gave the president executive orders which bypass congress. We gave him cabinets and regulatory agencies which create regulation bypassing congress. About the only power congress has left is the budget. If we hand the president more control over that, what’s left?

An impotent congress and powerful president is a scary thing. A little too much like a dictatorship. I think I’d rather just open the window and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. It may not be productive but there is very little downside.

WasCy's avatar

Actually, @Jaxk, opening the window and proclaiming รก la Network is likely to get you on radar screens as being “intolerant”. And the way those radar screens work these days, an investigation is as good as a conviction. Maybe better, in fact, because it tends to immobilize and impoverish the target, and if nothing else it marginalizes him.

I’m afraid we have to wait for the whole bloody mess to crash, as it inevitably will, and hope that we can rebuild it.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t think it would be constitutional. The Constitution assigns the power of the purse to the Congress. A line-item veto would transfer it to the Executive, making an imperial executive.

perspicacious's avatar

No; I prefer no line item vetoes.

Jaxk's avatar


You’re right. I was wrong about the downside.

choreplay's avatar

The problem is it is too much power in one branch, the president. If it could be paired with something that created a balance of power it would definitely beneficial, like say earmark legislation.

ETpro's avatar

@Season_of_Fall Earmark elimination is a mixed bag as well. Like most po0litical issues, what fits on a bumper sticker selcom manages to deal with all the nuances of reality. Earmarks are nothing more than a way for a legislator to direct where spending in a appropriations bill should go. If legislators cannot put earmarks on appropriations bills, then where the money gets pent is entirely up to bureaucrats in the Executive brnach that do the actual spending.

That said, the ability to earmark does drive lots of wasteful spending as legislators use them to reward campaign contributors, enrich cronies and in some cases use public money for what would, if we private citizens did it, be called the crime of bribery.

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