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Clinton Will Appeal Line-Item Veto Ruling

President says he's 'disappointed' with judge's decision

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 11) -- A frustrated President Bill Clinton vowed a quick appeal today, after a federal judge declared his new line-item veto power unconstitutional.

Clinton, asked about the legal ruling after a luncheon speech to newspaper editors, said he was disappointed "and I intend to appeal it."

"I think the line item veto is very important in helping preserve the integrity of federal spending," Clinton said. "And I hope very much we can sustain it. And we have to appeal it."

Asked about the line-item veto's constitutionality, Clinton said, "Well then, we ought to give the Supreme Court a chance to have their say on it."

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that the year-old, line-item veto law violates the Constitution's separation of powers.

The law, which took effect in January, allows the president to pencil out specific spending provisions in bills passed by Congress without vetoing the entire measure. Many state governors have similar power to line out wasteful or special interest spending.


But in his opinion, Judge Jackson said the law violates the U.S. Constitution's basic tenets.

"Where the president signs a bill but then purports to cancel parts of it, he exceeds his constitutional authority and prevents both houses of Congress from participating in the exercise of lawmaking authority," Jackson wrote.

"Never before has Congress attempted to give away the power to shape the content of a statute of the United States, as the Act purports to do ... Congress has turned the constitutional division of responsibilities for legislating on its head," the judge wrote.

After Clinton offered his reaction, the White House issued a statement expanding on his remarks. The president's statement said:

"I firmly believe that the lower court has ruled incorrectly in striking down this landmark line-item veto legislation. I continue to believe that the line-item veto -- a power exercised by 43 governors -- is an important tool for the president to strike wasteful spending and tax items legislation. The last Congress took the right step in enacting this important tool, and I was very pleased to sign it into law.

"The Solicitor General has reviewed the decision and has authorized an immediate appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The Solicitor General intends to ask the Supreme Court to expedite the consideration of the appeal and to schedule argument in June so that the case can be decided before the conclusion of the Court's term at the end of June.

"This action has my strong support," Clinton added. "It is my hope that it will result in an expedited ruling that clears up any confusion."


Earlier in the day, on CNN, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin called the decision "very disappointing." (96K wav sound)

In Congress, some members who had challenged the law were happy with the ruling. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who with five other members of Congress had filed the challenge, had argued the law was an unconstitutional encroachment of Congress' legislative power.

"I am very pleased with the court's decision, which I believe to be a great victory for the American people and our Constitution," Byrd said in a statement.


Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who voted for the line-item veto, noted that the law included a sunset clause. "One of the things I liked about it was that it had a sunset on it, so that if it didn't work we would have an out, but we should try it," Bennett said.

"It looks like the courts are saying we shouldn't even try it and probably we are less well off, because we won't have the experience," Bennett said. "But as a permanent thing I think we should be careful about moving in that direction."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) offered a tongue in cheek reaction.


"Sometimes you get judicial rulings that gladden you and sometimes you don't," Armey said. "I have found that almost every time I have gotten a judicial ruling I disagree with, the judge was an idiot." (128K wav sound)

"On the other hand I have seen some brilliant judges come down on my side of the issue. It just happens that way. I am sure there is a further appeals process and I am sure that there will be other opportunities for judicial review," Armey said. Armey made his comments before the administration announced it would appeal.

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