Line Item Veto Act

[Public Law 104–4; 110 Stat. 1200; April 9, 1996; S. 4]


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.

Summary of Senate Bill

The Senate bill was introduced by Senator Dole on Wednesday, January 4, 1995. On March 20, 1995, the Senate began consideration. During consideration in the Senate, Senator Dole (for himself, and Senators McCain, Coats and Domenici) offered an amendment in the form of a substitute.

The Senate bill gives the President line item veto authority by dis-aggregating certain types of bills under a procedure known as “separate enrollment.” Separate enrollment requires that the enrolling clerks of the House and Senate separately enroll each item of spending in an appropriation bill and each item of new direct spending or any targeted tax benefit contained in an authorizing bill. Each of these individual bills is presented to the President. The President may exercise his Article I power to veto any one, or all, of the individual bills. The Congress may exercise its Constitutional prerogative to override the President’s veto(es).

According to the Senate bill, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees report appropriation measures following current procedure except that any appropriation bill reported by the Committee must contain the same level of detail as is provided in the Committee report that accompanies the bill. This requirement ensures that appropriation bills do not contain large dollar lump sums with the details directing how the money should be expended noted only in the Committee report.

An authorization bill that contains an item of new direct spending or a targeted tax benefit that is brought to the floor must contain such provision in a separate section and must identify the item of new direct spending or the targeted tax benefit in the report that accompanies the bill.

Any appropriation or authorization bill that fails to comply with the above requirements is subject to a point of order that may only be waived by a three-fifths vote of the House or Senate.

Upon passage of an appropriation or authorization bill, the enrolling clerk of the originating House is required to enroll each item contained in the legislation separately. After all the items are enrolled as separate bills, both the House and Senate vote on all the bills en bloc prior to their submittal to the President.

The provisions of the bill become effective on the date of enactment and sunset in five years.

As defined in the bill, an item in an appropriation bill is:

(1) any numbered section;

(2) any unnumbered paragraph; or

(3) any allocation or suballocation contained in a numbered section or an unnumbered paragraph made to conform to the level of detail in the accompanying report.

The following items are not required to be separately enrolled:

(1) provisions that do not appropriate funds;

(2) provisions that do not direct the expenditures of funds for a specific project; and

(3) provisions that create an express or implied obligation to expend funds and

(a) rescind budget authority;

(b) limit, condition or otherwise restrict the expenditure of budget authority; or

(c) place a condition on the expenditure of budget authority by explicitly prohibiting the use of the funds.

By not separately enrolling the items just noted, language that places restrictions or conditions on the expenditure of funds, also known as fencing language, may not be separately vetoed apart from some dollar amount.

An item in an authorization bill is (1) any numbered section, or (2) any unnumbered paragraph that provides new direct spending or a new targeted tax benefit.

A targeted tax benefit is any provision that (1) the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates would lose revenue in the first fiscal year and over the five fiscal years covered by the budget resolution, and (2) provides more favorable treatment to a taxpayer or a targeted group of taxpayers when compared to a similarly situation taxpayer or group of taxpayers.

The Senate bill contains a “lockbox” provision, a prohibition on emergency spending bills containing non-emergency spending items, and a sunset of all tax provisions at least every 10 years.

Finally, the Senate bill contains provisions allowing a Member of Congress to challenge the constitutionality of the bill under expedited procedures and a severability clause stating that if any one provision of the Act is found to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the Act will be held harmless.

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). 






Summary of House Amendment

[BCR § 277.02]