Monday, October 8, 2007

Constitutional Law Case Brief - Clinton v. City of New York (1998)

Note that the formatting of this brief has been stripped in the copying and pasting process.

Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998)

FACTS: In April 1996, Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act, which gave the President the power to “cancel in whole” certain spending items. Shortly after its enactment, six members of Congress who had voted against the law filed suit in the United States District court for the District of Columbia. The district court held the act unconstitutional; however, the Supreme Court ruled that these members of Congress lacked standing because they had not suffered direct injury from the act (Raines v. Byrd, 1997). Within two months of the decision, President Clinton exercised his power under the statute to cancel one provision in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and two provisions in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. In response, several affected parties, including the City of New York, challenged the act in the same district court. Once again, the district court held the law invalid. The case was then heard by the Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Does the Line Item Veto Act violate the Presentment Clause of the Constitution?

REASONING: Justice Stevens: We…agree that the cancellation procedures set forth in the Act violate the Presentment Clause of the Constitution…
In both legal and practical effect, the President has amended two Acts of Congress by repealing a portion of each…There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the President to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes…after a bill has passed both Houses of Congress, but "before it become[s] a Law," it must be presented to the President. If he approves it, "he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.
There are important differences between the President's "return" of a bill pursuant to Article 1, §7, and the exercise of the President's cancellation authority pursuant to the Line Item Veto Act. The constitutional return takes place before the bill becomes law; the statutory cancellation occurs after the bill becomes law. The constitutional return is of the entire bill; the statutory cancellation is of only a part. Although the Constitution expressly authorizes the President to play a role in the process of enacting statutes, it is silent on the subject of unilateral Presidential action that either repeals or amends parts of duly enacted statutes.
What has emerged in these cases from the President's exercise of his statutory cancellation powers, however, are truncated versions of two bills that passed both Houses of Congress. They are not the product of the "finely wrought" procedure that the Framers designed.
Our decision rests on the narrow ground that the procedures authorized by the Line Item Veto Act are not authorized by the Constitution. If there is to be a new procedure in which the President will play a different role in determining the final text of what may "become a law," such change must come not by legislation but through the amendment procedures set forth in Article V of the Constitution.

DECISION: Affirmed.

RULE: The new procedures in the Line Item Veto Act violate the Presentment Clause of the Constitution. If there is to be a new procedure for determining how a bill becomes a law, an amendment to the Constitution must be passed.

DISSENTING: Justice Scalia: Unlike the Court I find the President’s cancellation of spending items to be entirely in accord with the Constitution…Had the Line Item Veto Act authorized the President to “decline to spend” any item of spending contained in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, there is not the slightest doubt that authorization would have been constitutional…authorizing the President to “cancel” an item of spending – is technically different. But the technical difference does not relate to the technicalities of the Presentment Clause, which have been fully complied with…because I find no party before us who has standing to challenge the President’s cancellation…I do not reach the question whether that violates the Constitution…
Justice Breyer: In my view the Line Item Veto Act does not violate any specific textual constitutional command, nor does it violate any implicit Separation of Powers principle. Consequently, I believe that the Act is constitutional…@hen the President “cancelled” the two appropriation measures now before us, he did not repeal any law nor did he amend any law…One could not say that a President who “prevent(s)” the deeming language from “having legal force or effect,” has either repealed or amended this particular hypothetical statute. Rather, the President has followed that law to the letter.

NOTES AND COMMENTS: A case from 1890, Field v. Clark, was mentioned in the opinion of the court. This case was used by the government in its defense of the Act. The case dealt with the suspension of tariffs by the President. The court dismissed this use of this case as a possible precedent due to the point that the facts in this case did not deal with an exercise of legislative power.

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