Why Is the Trump Administration Demanding Line-Item Veto Power?

Since President Donald Trump took office in January of 2017, the commander-in-chief has issued a myriad of executive orders that have revamped everything from “crime reduction” to “religious liberty.” The president has dramatically changed the federal judiciary into a right-wing legal arm, and he’s disposed of federal regulations that were in place for decades.

Now, he wants line-item veto power, too?

The president’s advisers have floated the idea of Congress approving a line-item veto in the wake of a massive new budget that includes a number of progressive policies added to garner support from left-leaning politicians. A line-item veto would give the executive branch more control over the federal budget, allowing Trump to pick and choose which items he funds or rejects.

The big problem? The Supreme Court has already ruled that a line-item veto is unconstitutional. But that isn’t stopping the Trump team: Vice President Mike Pence mentioned it in a speech, and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin suggested it on Fox News.

Unsurprisingly, the president demanded this power on Twitter, too:

As the National Memo reports:

On Monday, Trump deputy press secretary Raj Shah was still batting around the idea. When asked if the White House had found a “workaround” for the US Constitution, Shah insisted that ‘House and Senate rules’ are ‘being discussed’ as a way to subvert the Supreme Court decision that ruled the line-item veto unconstitutional. Like Mnuchin, Pence, and Trump before him, Shah declined to provide details of the plan.

While it is understandable that a divided Congress and the massive acrimony and unprecedented roadblocking that has occurred in the last decade has made government essentially grind to a halt, a line item veto for the President would be a disaster regardless of which party holds the White House. It was just as true in 1998, when the Supreme Court overturned the original Congressional bill allowing for a line item veto, when Democratic President Bill Clinton was in office.

As the Washington Post Fact Checker explains:

According to the Supreme Court, the line-item veto threw a wrench into this “finely wrought” process [of how a bill becomes a law] because it let the president amend or repeal sections of bills on his own, without Congress having a say. In other words, the line-item veto flouted the presentment clause and its requirement that the House, Senate and president all approve an identical bill. “The Constitution explicitly requires that each of those three steps be taken before a bill may ‘become a law,'” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court majority. “If the Line Item Veto Act were valid, it would authorize the president to create a different law — one whose text was not voted on by either house of Congress or presented to the president for signature.”

Does the Trump administration believe that if it can convince Congress to pass a line-item veto bill, a new mix of Supreme Court justices would change their mind and overturn precedent? If so, they are very, very wrong.

Unlike voter rights, anti-discrimination policies, abortion rights and so-called “religious freedom,” the issue of checks and balances is one that has no partisan leaning. By undermining the three branches system and giving massive, unilateral power to the executive branch, Republicans would fare just as poorly in the long run as Democrats, since it’s impossible for one party to hold the White House indefinitely.

Much like removing the filibuster and allowing a straight majority in the Senate to pass all bills, what may seem like a successful power grab for the GOP today would be devastating as soon as the political pendulum swings away from the party — majorities always change hands eventually.

Of course, even if President Trump himself doesn’t understand this reality, his advisors and administration officials all know that they are simply blustering for the sake of making noise. Even if the Supreme Court would be willing to reverse its original decision, there’s no way that a line-item veto bill could get a vote in the current Senate to become law in the first place. Once again, the administration is just looking for a way to deflect their current failings.

This is nothing more than an attempt to push the responsibility for this massive omnibus federal budget — and the ensuing deficit that will accompany it — onto the shoulders of Congress.

No, the federal government doesn’t need a presidential line-item veto to cut our deficit bloat. What the country needs is responsible and qualified elected officials.