Chairman Rogers Statement on Line-Item Veto Act on House Floor

Feb 8, 2012
Press Release

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this bill.

"In Article One, Section 9, Clause 7, the U.S. Constitution bestows upon Congress the ‘power of the purse’ – that the representatives of the people should distribute taxpayer dollars as warranted and needed. The Line-Item Veto would weaken that power, shifting budgetary authority to the Executive Branch and giving the President a power that our Founding Fathers did not see fit to give him. In fact, a previous effort to provide the President a line-item veto was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998.

"Two weeks ago during his State of the Union address, we heard how the President would choose to spend our precious taxpayer dollars. The Line-Item Veto would strengthen the President’s ability to give preference to his spending priorities over those of the Congress and the constituents we represent.

"Our Founding Fathers had seen first-hand what an absolute authority could do when wielding too much influence – particularly over spending and taxation – and drafted our Constitution accordingly, providing for checks and balances to prevent too much power from falling into the hands of one branch of government. The Framers would surely shake their heads at the idea of transferring this much authority to the Executive Branch.

"So powerful was this defense of the Congress’ role that James Madison – in Federalist Paper 58 – stated, and I quote:

"'The power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.'

"Not only does the Line-Item Veto fly in the face of our Constitution and the Framers’ protections, but budget experts also doubt its effectiveness as a spending reduction tool. Look back to Congress’ experience with the Line-Item Veto under President Clinton. He wielded this authority to little effect in saving taxpayer dollars. In fact, Congress declared that he “misused” that authority and overturned nearly half of his cancellations. So, to summarize the Line-Item Veto: It is a power likely to be abused, and not likely to save money.

"In an effort to better this flawed bill, to at least improve its chances at having a tangible effect on government spending, we offered an amendment in the Rules Committee that would have made the bill also apply to tax benefits and runaway entitlement spending. However, that amendment was ruled out-of-order. The amendment wouldn’t have made this bill perfect, nor would have it solved the Constitutional problem, but it would have at least increased the potential for achieving actual budget savings.

"Nearly 25 years ago, former CBO director Rudolph G. Penner famously said in reference to our budget: 'The problem isn’t the process; the problem is the problem.'  Mr. Speaker, today’s problem isn’t with whether or not the President can veto budget line-items, nor is it even with annual discretionary spending. On that front, we have saved more than $95 billion over the last two years, thanks to the support of this House.

"The real problem today lies with exploding and unsustainable mandatory and entitlement spending, which comprises two-thirds of the federal budget and continues to blow up the nation’s deficits and debt at rapid rates, putting our economy and the stability of our nation at risk.

"I urge my colleagues to look beyond the opportunity for the easy press release to see that the line-item veto does more harm than good. We cannot dismiss the fundamental tenets of the Constitution, and we cannot pretend that it will have any positive effect on the nation’s financial predicament. We must put an end to these budgetary smoke screens to find more appropriate and effective ways to address our budget crisis – and focus our efforts on mandatory spending, where the real problems lie."

112th Congress