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Clinton v. City of New York

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Significance: The Supreme Court ruled the line-item veto was unconstitutional because it allowed the president to amend legislation passed by Congress.


The Line-Item Veto Act of 1996 authorized the president to veto fiscal portions of a bill, with the goal of putting a limit on federal spending. In Raines v. Byrd (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that members of Congress had no standing to oppose the law in court. After President Bill Clinton vetoed several spending measures, however, the city of New York and other plaintiffs were adversely affected by the vetoes and were granted standing. By a 6-3 vote, the Court struck down the veto law. In his opinion for the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the Constitution did not authorize the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes. Beginning with George Washington, presidents had recognized that the Constitution required them to “approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.” To make such a change in the legislative process would require a constitutional amendment. The three dissenters believed that the line-item veto violated neither a textual constitutional command nor any implicit principle of the separation of powers doctrine.