JOINT EXPLANATORY STATEMENT (Line Item Veto Act)
The conference report included descriptions of each of the sections of the public law as well as descriptions of each of the sections set forth in the new part C of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
Background and Need
The American people consistently cite run-away federal spending and a rising national debt as among the top issues of national concern. Over the past fifteen years alone, the national debt of the United States has quintupled. From 1789 through 1981, our total national debt amounted to $1 trillion. Yet today, just fifteen years later, that debt exceeds $5 trillion, and without significant reforms an additional $1 trillion will be added over the next four years. This astonishing growth in federal debt has fueled public support for measures to ensure greater fiscal accountability in Washington. This legislation, along with other measures to balance the federal budget considered in the 104th Congress, moves to meet that demand by enhancing the President’s ability to eliminate wasteful federal spending and to cancel special tax breaks.
No one would contend that a line item veto on its own will be enough to restrain spending and bring the federal budget into balance. However, a January 1992 GAO report indicates that this type of fiscal discipline could have a significant impact upon federal spending, concluding that if Presidents had applied this authority to all matters objected to in Statements of Administration Policy on spending bills in the fiscal years 1984 through 1989, spending could have been reduced by a six-year total of about $70 billion.
The conference report on S. 4, the Line Item Veto Act, delegates limited authority to the President to cancel new spending and limited tax benefits. This authority is in addition to the President’s existing authority under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (title X of the Congressional Budget Act). The Impoundment Control Act permits the President to submit proposed rescissions of discretionary budget authority to Congress, but prohibits those rescissions from taking effect without congressional approval. In addition to applying solely to appropriation laws, the statutory provisions of the Impoundment Control Act have proven too restrictive.
While Congress has initiated and passed rescissions on its own, Congress has agreed to only $23.7 billion of $74 billion in rescissions proposed by Presidents (both Democrat and Republican) since enactment of title X in 1974.
U.S. House of Representatives, Line Item Veto Act: Conference Report to Accompany S. 4, (H. Rept. 104-491) March 21, 1996.
Legislative History Notes
Pub. L. 104–4, 110 Stat. 1200, April 9, 1996 (Line Item Veto Act).