Cyclopedia of Congressional Budget Law

Line Item Veto


The Line Item Veto is the term used for the authority of a President to veto provisions of legislation presented to him for his signature rather than the bill or joint resolution in its entirety. Though Presidents, and Congress, have sought to provide this authority, it would require amending the U.S. Constitution to provide it.

History of the Line Item Veto

From the Congressional Research Service:

The U.S. Constitution provides that the President may either sign a measure into law or veto it in its entirety. However, constitutions in 43 states provide for an item veto (usually confined to appropriation bills), allowing the governor to eliminate discrete provisions in legislation presented for signature. Ten states allow the governor to reduce amounts as well as eliminate items, and seven states have an “amendatory” veto, permitting the governor to return legislation with specific suggestions for change. The first proposal to provide the President with an item veto was introduced in 1876. President Grant endorsed the mechanism, in response to the growing practice in Congress of attaching “riders,” or provisions altering permanent law, to appropriations bills. Over the years many bills and resolutions (mainly proposed constitutional amendments) have been introduced, but action in Congress on item veto proposals, beyond an occasional hearing, has been limited. In 1938 the House approved an item veto amendment to the independent offices appropriations bill by voice vote, but the Senate rejected the amendment. Contemporary proposals for item veto are usually confined to bills containing spending authority, although not necessarily limited to items of appropriation.

Confederate States of America: Approved when the southern states seceded from the Union, Article 1, Section 7 of the Confederate States Constitution gave the Confederate President the authority to “approve any appropriation and disapprove any other appropriation in the same bill.” These individual vetoes were to be returned to be possibly overridden.

GAO Glossary of Terms and Definition (September 2005)

Line Item Veto

A phrase used to describe an executive power to veto or “cross out” only certain parts of legislation while allowing the rest of the legislation to become law. At the federal level, legislation granting the President a line item veto has been declared unconstitutional. The line item veto exists at the state level because their constitutions grant the power to the governors in forms that vary from state to state. Some states only permit line item vetoes in bills appropriating money.

Several legislative initiatives have been introduced in Congress over the years to give the President expanded or enhanced rescission or line item veto authority. In 1996 the Line Item Veto Act was enacted authorizing the President, after signing a bill into law, to cancel in whole any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, any item of new direct spending, or any limited tax benefit if the President made certain determinations. In 1998, the United States Supreme Court in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998), held that the Line Item Veto Act violated the Presentment Clause, article 1, section 7, of the U.S. Constitution. Under that clause, the President must accept or veto in its entirety any bill passed by Congress. Granting the President line item veto authority would require a constitutional amendment. See also “Account” in the Department of the Treasury’s Annual Report Appendix. (See also Discretionary; Enhanced Rescission and Expedited Rescission under RescissionLine ItemMandatorySeparate Enrollment.)

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Constitution Annotated – Line Item Veto from The Constitution of the United States of America Annotated (S. Doc. 112-9) July 1, 2014

CRS – Item Veto and Expanded Impoundment Proposals – History and Current Status (RL33635) June 18, 2010

Line Item Veto: A Constitutional Analysis of Recent Proposals

Line Item Veto Unconstitutional: Clinton v. City of New York

Item Veto: Budget Savings

Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006: Background and Comparison of Versions

Legislative Line Item Veto Act and Other Expedited Rescission Bills: Brief Overview

Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006: Comparison of Three Versions


Line Item


Liquidating Account