NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Line-Item Vetoes Only A Drop In Budget Bucket

October 31, 1997

President Clinton has begun using his new line-item veto power, but the amounts so far excised from the federal budget are minuscule compared to the size of the budget as a whole, according to critics of government waste.

  • The money saved so far amounts to about $2 billion -- including items cut from four big spending bills and the five-year budget agreement signed in August.
  • That amount is dwarfed by the $1.6 trillion authorized in the federal budget.
  • In the spending bills, Clinton has vetoed only one-seventh of 1 percent of the total amount appropriated.

Some administration budget analysts report that wily congressmen and senators try to hide pet projects deep in legislation, hoping they won't be noticed. Budget Director Franklin Raines says sometimes only the title of the project is included -- with "nothing in the record, nothing in the report, nothing in the bill that tells you what it is." He says staff must use up a lot of time seeking for clues and trying to track down the nature of the projects.

Three separate suits challenging the line-item veto law were consolidated this week in U.S. District Court in Washington, with arguments scheduled for January 14. No decision is expected until later next year.

Source: Susan Page, "Line-Item Veto Alters Political Landscape," USA Today, October 31, 1997.


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