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Andrew Hill

Brief

1. Case Name. Clinton v. City of New York 524 U.S. 393-450 (1998)
2. Year Case Decided by Supreme Court. 1998
3. Facts that Triggered the Dispute. The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 gave the President
authority to selectively cancel provisions of budget appropriations bills. President
Clinton cancelled one provision in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that would have kept
the U.S. Government from recouping $2.6 billion in taxes levied against health care
providers by the state of New York, and two provisions in the Taxpayer Relief Act of
1997 that would have permitted a number of food refiners and processors to defer tax
payment if they sold securities to eligible famers’ cooperatives. The appellees, which
included New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (NYCHCC) and Snake River
Potato Growers Inc., filed suit in District Court seeking “a declaratory judgment that the
Line Item Veto Act is unconstitutional and that the particular cancellation was invalid”
(406). District Court declared the Act unconstitutional and, thus, the Supreme Court
granted certiorari on expedited appeal.
4. Statute. The Line Item Veto Act.
5. Provision of the Constitution. Article I, Section 7 (the Presentment Clause).
6. Legal Question(s). Do the appellees have standing to challenge the Act’s
constitutionality? Does the Line Item Veto Act violate the Presentment Clause?
7. Outcome. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that appellees had standing to sue and that
the Line Item Veto Act violates the Presentment Clause.
8. Legal Reasoning of the Majority. In delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice
Stevens held that:
a. In compliance with the cancelled provision, appellee NYCHCC must make
retroactive tax payments of up to $4 million to the State. Likewise, appellee
Snake River “lost the benefit of being on equal footing with their competitors and
will likely have to pay more [emphasis my own] to purchase processing facilities”
(406-407). Both appellees face financial injury, thus they have standing to sue.
b. “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the President to enact, to
amend, or to repeal statutes” (414). Lacking textual support, the Act is
unconstitutional.
c. “If the Line Item Veto Act were valid, it would authorize the President to create a
different law – one whose text was not voted on by either House of Congress or
presented to the President for signature” (429). The Framers’ intent was bills be
passed bicamerally before the President could sign them into law. Lacking
historical support, the Act is unconstitutional.
d. Where the Government states the Act is supported by statutes that grant the
President discretion to “suspen[d] and discontinue[e] statutory duties upon his
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determination that discriminatory duties imposed by other nations had been


abolished” (418), the Court affirms “in the foreign affairs arena the President has
‘a degree of discretion and freedom from statutory restriction which would not be
admissible were domestic affairs alone [emphasis my own] involved’” (418). See:
United States v. Curtis Wright Export Corp.
9. Legal Doctrine. The President may no longer selectively cancel provisions of budgetary
appropriation bills. If he is to veto a bill, he must veto it in its entirety.
10. Other Points of View.
a. Justice Kennedy concurred: The Act may curb excessive government spending,
but is unconstitutional. Furthermore, Justice Breyer’s assertion that the Act does
not put civil liberties in peril is incorrect. “Concentration of power in the hands of
a single branch is a threat to liberty” (421). The Act allows the President, sans
Congressional approval, to “help one set of taxpayers and hurt another” (422).
The Framers recognized such power in excess as a move toward tyranny.
b. Justice Breyer (with whom Justice O’Connor and Justice Scalia joined as to Part
III) dissented: The parties have standing to sue, but the Act does not violate the
Presentment Clause. At our Nation’s founding, the population was less than four
million, and relative few appropriations bills were drafted. Congress needed only
submit a few bills to the President and have him choose that which he cared for.
With a greater population, more money spent, and more bills working their way
through, Congress cannot divide a bill into a thousand appropriations bills. “Thus,
the question is whether the Constitution permits Congress to choose a particular
novel means to achieve the same, constitutionally legitimate, end” (434). One
may conclude the Framers intended the Executive to exercise this power, which
assures the Act’s constitutionality. Furthermore, the Act is in concert with the
separation of powers doctrine and in no way threatens the civil liberties of the
American people.
c. Justice Scalia (with whom Justice O’Connor joins, and with whom Justice Breyer
joins as to Part III), concurred in part and dissented in part: Appellees, save one,
have no standing to sue, thus the Court has “no jurisdiction to resolve . . . [this]
challenge to the President’s authority to cancel a ‘limited tax benefit’” (429). The
one appellee with standing may challenge the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That
said, the Constitution does not deny the President authority to selectively cancel
provisions. There is no difference between Congress “authorizing the President to
cancel a spending item, and Congress’s authorizing money to be spent on a
particular item at the President’s discretion,” (431-432) an act performed since
our Nation’s founding. See: Cincinnati Soap Co. v. United States.

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