GOP quietly kills line-item veto after passage seemed sure thing LTC

July 20, 1995|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- One of the top items in the Republicans' Contract With America, a "line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress," appears to be dead.

Despite passing both houses by overwhelming margins earlier this year, the proposal became a victim, in large part, because of a loss of enthusiasm among Republicans.

Last week, in an interview published in the Washington Times, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked about the line-item veto and another stalled Republican measure that would overhaul the nation's product liability rules. "My sense is that we won't get to them this year," he said.

Now that Republicans control Congress, many are reluctant to give a Democratic president the power to strike specific parts of spending bills without vetoing the entire legislation -- a change that might result in a significant shift of authority to the White House from the Capitol.

"There are some who do not want to see this authority in the hands of this president, at least not until we have finished the appropriations bills," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is the Senate's most outspoken advocate of a line-item veto.

The House approved a line-item veto bill in February by 294-134. The Senate passed a different version in March by 69-29. But no conference committee has met to reconcile the differences. In fact, the House has not even appointed its conferees.

Under the House bill, the president could strike individual items in a money bill or a tax bill, as long as the item in question did not affect more than 100 taxpayers, and the money could not be spent without further Congressional action.

To reinstate the provisions the president had excised, the House and Senate would have to pass a new bill specifically doing so. The president could then veto that bill, and the deleted items would be added back only if Congress overrode that veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

Under the Senate measure, spending bills and certain tax measures would be broken up into hundreds, or even thousands, of separate bills, each of which would be subject to a presidential veto.

Even many who voted for the Senate bill now say it would prove to be impractical and cumbersome.

Many senators, including Mr. McCain, favor the House version. But enough Republicans oppose it.

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