Cyclopedia of Congressional Budget Law

Separate Enrollment


The term separate enrollment is parliamentary in nature and concerns how an Act passed by both Houses of Congress is “enrolled”, or prepared for its presentment to the President for signature. The concept of “separate” enrollment generally refers to the proposal to divide each appropriation Act into separate spending items and send them in what is tantamount to a multitude of individual bills. This would allow the President to choose which items he agrees with and is willing to sign rather than either signing the entire measure or vetoing it. 

Though it has been proposed it has never been adopted by either chamber of Congress.  See also Line Item Veto.

GAO Glossary of Terms and Definition (September 2005)

Separate Enrollment

A procedure that would require that once an appropriation bill is passed by Congress, each provision of funding would be separately enrolled as a discrete “bill.” An enrolled bill is the final, official copy of a bill or joint resolution that both houses have passed in identical form to present to the President for signature. Each separately enrolled provision would be presented independently to the President for signature, allowing the veto of some “bills” with spending provisions to which the President objects while allowing signing the others. While such legislation has been proposed at various times in the past as a way of providing the President with something like a line item veto, Congress has not enacted separate enrollment procedures. (See also ImpoundmentLine Item VetoRescission.)

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Hearing Excerpt on Separate Enrollment 

Hearings of the
Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process

The Rescissions Process After the Line Item Veto: Tools for Controlling Spending

Statement of Louis Fisher,
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

Separate Enrollment

Another constitutional option is separate enrollment, which would permit the enrolling clerk to separate each “item” from an appropriations bill and enroll that item as a separate bill or joint resolution to be submitted to the President for his signature or veto. Items are generally defined as any numbered section (containing provisos or conditions) or unnumbered paragraphs (containing dollar amounts).

The obvious purpose of this proposal is to give the President greater discretion than he has now with omnibus appropriations bills. I see no constitutional problem with this approach, especially if the “mini-bills” are returned to the House and the Senate and voted on en bloc before being submitted to the President.

Precisely how cumbersome this procedure would be depends on how Congress chose to write appropriations and other money bills. The greater the specificity, the more the bills. Congress would have to decide what details to put in the bill and which ones would be left in committee reports and other nonstatutory sources.

Separate enrollment raises significant problems of timing and scheduling for Congress. The work of the enrolling clerk would be immense, and the Appropriations Committees would no doubt spend additional time in constructing their bills to channel and minimize presidential power. For example, they could combine sections and paragraphs in such a way that the President, in vetoing something he opposes, loses something he wants.

Modified Separate Enrollment

Separate enrollment would be less burdensome if the mini-bills were restricted to items in dispute between Congress and the President. For example, let us suppose that an appropriations bill is in conference and the White House announces that the President objects to 30 items. Those would be stripped from the bill and the balance passed by both chambers and submitted to the President, who would sign the bill into law. The 30 items in contention would be put in separate bills, passed by both chambers, and submitted to the President, who would veto them. Congress would then have to muster a two-thirds in each House for the override. This process would be similar to the Line Item Veto Act but would present no constitutional problems. However, it would not allow the President the opportunity to do what he did under LIVA: reach into committee reports and cancel programs at that level.


Self-executing Rule