Clinton v. City of New York

From Academic Kids

In the case Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998), the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 ("Act") in violation of the United States Constitution, in a decision delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens. The Act allowed the President to "cancel", that is to void or legally nullify, certain provisions of appropriations bills, and disallowed the use of funds from canceled provisions for offsetting deficit spending in other areas. In this case, which was consolidated from two cases by a lower court, the City of New York and several organizations related to health care alleged injury from the President's cancellation of certain provisions of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that eliminated certain liabilities, and Snake River Potato Growers, Inc. alleged injury from the President's cancellation of certain provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 that gave tax benefits to aid farmer's cooperatives in purchasing potato processing facilities.

The Court decided that the Act allowed the President to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of duly enacted statutes by using line-item cancellations, and therefore violated the Presentment clause of the Constitution (article I, section 7, clause 2), which outlines a specific practice for enacting a statute. The Court construed the silence of the Constitution on the subject of such unilateral Presidential action as equivalent to "an express prohibition", agreeing with historical material that supported the conclusion that statutes may only be enacted "in accord with a single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedure" (from INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983)) and that a bill must be approved or rejected by the President in its entirety.

The dissent, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, contended that the objective of the Act was constitutionally proper and was consistent with powers that the President has held in the past, stating that the Act "does not violate any specific textual constitutional command, nor does it violate any implicit Separation of Powers principle". He extensively refers to many different cases which support the delegation of power by the Congress, and primarily suggests that the Act is an efficient means by which a constitutionally legitimate end may be achieved.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a concurrence of the opinion of the Court, objected to the dissent's argument that the Act did not violate principles of the separation of powers and threaten individual liberty, stating that the "undeniable effects" of the Act were to "enhance the President's power to reward one group and punish another, to help one set of taxpayers and hurt another, to favor one State and ignore another." In an alternative opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia objected to the Court's consideration of the President's cancellation of provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act, finding no party in the case with standing to challenge it. However, he does find a party with standing to challenge the President's cancellation of provisions of the Balanced Budget Act, and concludes that it did not violate the Constitution because the Congress has the power to delegate the discretionary authority to decline to spend appropriated sums of money, which he asserts is equivalent to cancellation.

Case information

  • Case Number: 971374
  • Cite: 524 U.S. 417
  • Argued: April 27, 1998
  • Decided: June 25, 1998

External link

  • Text of Supreme Court opinions (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/97-1374.ZS.html) from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School
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