In what was supposed to be a softball interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Steve Mnuchin demonstrated a glaring lack of political knowledge by trying to advocate for a proposal made by the president from Twitter. Mnuchin, seemingly unaware that the line-item veto he was supporting had been previously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, tried to stand his ground even after being rebuked by Wallace on live television.
Mnuchin stated that:
“Democrats demanded a massive increase in non-military spending. To trim future bills, Congress should give the president a line-item veto.”
Wallace quickly responded, pointing out that:
“But that’s been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, sir.”
Mnuchin continued undeterred, saying: “Well, again, Congress could pass a rule, okay, that allows them to do it,” he said. “No,” Wallace answered. “No, sir, it would be a constitutional amendment.” To this, Mnuchin responded: “Chris, we don’t need to get into a debate in terms of — there’s different ways of doing this.”
The line-item veto was being discussed after a tweet from the president which advocated for Congress to grant him the enhanced power.
The president, who has repeatedly pushed for Republicans to enact changes that would make legislation easier for his administration to pass, used the recent spending bill to push the line-item veto. Trump justified his demands by raising concerns with regard to the quality of the spending bill that he recently signed. Claiming that nobody had even had the time to read the bill, the president cited Democratic obstructionism as the main reason for the problems with the bill.
Despite the president’s insistence that, if Congress granted him the line-item veto power, future spending bills like the one he just signed would be avoidable, that isn’t entirely true. Trump seems to be unaware that the last time Congress tried to grant the line-item veto power to a president the Supreme Court was forced to step in, ruling the enhanced power to be unconstitutional. This occurred almost 20 years ago when Congress tried to grant Bill Clinton the same enhanced authority through the Line Item Veto Act of 1996.
Despite the president’s consistent criticisms of Bill Clinton, the two seem to employ similar tactics for trying to accomplish legislative goals. Mnuchin, who seemed unaware of the historical context surrounding the line-item veto, would do well to remember that the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3, in Clinton v. City of New York the last time a president went this route.
“The line-item veto was unconstitutional because it gave unilateral power to the president to amend the text of laws — which is the legislative branch’s, not the president’s, territory.” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion following the case, saying line-item vetoes are “the functional equivalent of partial repeals of acts of Congress.”
“There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” Stevens added.
The conclusion of the Supreme Court ruling on the line-item veto case stated that:
“In a 6-to-3 decision the Court first established that both the City of New York, and its affiliates and the farmers’ cooperative suffered sufficiently immediate and concrete injuries to sustain their standing to challenge the President’s actions. The Court then explained that under the Presentment Clause, legislation that passes both Houses of Congress must either be entirely approved (i.e. signed) or rejected (i.e. vetoed) by the President. The Court held that by canceling only selected portions of the bills at issue, under authority granted him by the Act, the President in effect “amended” the laws before him. Such discretion, the Court concluded, violated the “finely wrought” legislative procedures of Article I as envisioned by the Framers.”
Yet this didn’t stop Mnuchin from blindly echoing support for the President’s demands. Watch Wallace’s full interview with Mnuchin below: