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Bush Wants To Take Line-Item Veto To Washington

Bill Clinton
White House

Former Governor Jeb Bush wants line-item veto power if he wins the White House. But experts say giving presidents the authority to ax individual spending items will do little to control spending.

Bush likes to brag on the campaign trail that he earned the nickname “Veto Corleone” for slashing $2 billion of state spending in eight years. But Gene Healy, a presidential powers expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, points out the Florida budget was nearly $74 billion when Bush left office.

“It’s a bit like a bandage on a sucking chest wound or a homeopathic remedy for a terminal patient.”

In modern times, only President Bill Clinton had line-item authority and he used it 82 times between 1996 and 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court struck it down, ruling the Constitution doesn’t give presidents that much power.

University of Florida constitutional scholar and former Florida legislator Jon Mills seems some advantages. He says it gives lawmakers someone to go to when they spot pork barrel spending.

“At some point, members of the Legislature are relieved to see governors veto some things that were able to slip though. So line-item veto isn’t a bad thing, but it depends on the scope and how it’s used.”

President Barack Obama asked Congress for line-item veto authority 2010.  It passed the House but stalled in the Senate. It gets around the constitutional problem by giving Congress a fast-track vote after the president identifies vetoes.