George Will destroys the argument that the Constitution needs line-item veto authority for the president to make Congress behave.
But were a president empowered to cancel provisions of legislation, what he would be doing would be indistinguishable from legislating. He would be making, rather than executing, laws, and the separation of powers would be violated.
But Mr. Will demonstrates how presidents would misbehave:
And the line-item veto might result in increased spending. Legislators would have even less conscience about packing the budget with pork, because they could get credit for putting in what presidents would be responsible for taking out. Presidents, however, might use the pork for bargaining, saying to individual legislators: If you support me on this and that, I will not veto the bike path you named for your Aunt Emma.
Indeed. It’s the same basic argument as the one given for tax cuts instead of spending cuts. On spending, we’ve already learned that Congress is content to spend future tax receipts if it can’t get them today. Why should we expect future presidents – like members of Congress, politicians every one of them – to find religion on the line-item veto? We may not accurately predict the unintended consequences, but we should be smart enough to know they will occur.
A principled president would simply veto any and all appropriations bills until the Congress can a) trim it down to its legitimate essentials or b) override the veto.