Line-item veto

"Line item" redirects here. For line items in accounting and bookkeeping, see General ledger and Financial statement.

The line-item veto, or partial veto, is a special form of veto that authorizes a chief executive to reject particular provisions of a bill enacted by a legislature without vetoing the entire bill. Many countries have different standards for invoking the line-item veto, if it exists at all. Each country or state has its own particular requirement for overriding a line-item veto.

By country


The President of Brazil has the power of the line-item veto over all legislation. Any provisions vetoed in such a manner are returned to the Brazilian congress, and can be overridden by a vote. Recently, the President of Brazil vetoed portions of a new forestry law which had been criticized as potentially causing another wave of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.[1]


The President of Panama has the ability to partially veto portions of a bill.[2]

United States

Federal government

Dating to before the American Civil War, presidents including Ulysses S. Grant and Ronald Reagan have sought line-item veto powers. It was not until the Clinton presidency that Congress passed such legislation.[3] Intended to control "pork barrel spending", the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 was held to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1998 ruling in Clinton v. City of New York. The court affirmed a lower court decision that the line-item veto was equivalent to the unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes and therefore violated the Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution.[4] Before the ruling, President Clinton applied the line-item veto to the federal budget 82 times.[5][6]

Since then, the prospect of granting the President a line-item veto has occasionally resurfaced in Congress, either through a constitutional amendment or a differently worded bill. Most recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill on February 8, 2012, that would have granted the President a limited line-item veto; however, the bill was not heard in the Senate.[7]

The most-commonly proposed form of the line-item veto is limited to partial vetoes of spending bills.[3]

Confederate States of America

While the Constitution of the Confederate States of America was largely based on the U.S. Constitution, one of the most notable departures was the granting of a line-item veto to the President.[8] Jefferson Davis, however, never exercised the provision.

State governments

Forty-three states—all except Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont—give their governors some form of line-item veto power.[9] The Mayor of Washington, D.C. also has this power.[10] Use of the line-item veto remains far less controversial at the state level than at the federal level.


  1. "Brazil president vetoes parts of law opening up Amazon". New Straits Times. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  2. Jackson, Eric. "With Martinelli out of the country, assembly passes nine laws in one". The Panama News. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  3. 1 2 Madison, Lucy (10 August 2012). "15 years after its brief existence, line-item veto eludes presidents". Political Hotsheet. CBS News. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  4. Steve Charnovitz, "The Line Item Veto Isn't a 'Veto' at All," National Law Journal, March 23, 1998, p. A17.
  5. "Supreme Court Strikes Down Line-Item Veto". CNN. June 25, 1998. Archived from the original on October 8, 2008.
  6. "History of Line Item Veto Notices". National Archives and Records Administration.
  7. Lawder, David (8 February 2012). "House votes to give Obama limited line-item veto". Reuters. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  8. "Constitution of the Confederate States; March 11, 1861". Avalon Project.
  9. "Gubernatorial Veto Authority with Respect to Major Budget Bill(s)". National Conference of State Legislatures.
  10. District of Columbia Home Rule Act (Pub.L. 93–198, 87 Stat. 777, enacted December 24, 1973)

See also

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