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Court To Review Line-Item Veto

February 27, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today agreed to judge the legitimacy of the line-item veto law that gave the president the power to cancel specific items in spending and tax bills approved by Congress.

The highest court’s fast-track review of a federal judge’s ruling striking down the law sets the stage for a momentous decision by late June on the separation of powers between Congress and the presidency.

The case will be argued before the justices on April 27.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan invalidated the line-item veto law earlier this month, a blow to what President Clinton and the Republican-led Congress consider a key to fighting wasteful ``pork-barrel″ projects.

Congress in 1996 made Clinton the first U.S. president with such authority, and last year he used it 82 times. If the line-item veto law is upheld by the Supreme Court, Congress is likely to restore 38 of those items with two-thirds majority votes in both the House and Senate.

Hogan’s ruling said the 1996 decision wrongly ``crosses the line between acceptable delegations of rule-making authority and unauthorized surrender to the president of an inherently legislative function, namely the authority to permanently shape laws and package legislation.″

``The Constitution ... dictates that once a bill becomes law, the president’s sole duty is to ``take care that the laws be faithfully executed,″ Hogan wrote. ``His power cannot expand to that of `co-designer’ of the law _ that is Congress’ domain.″

In the appeal acted on today, Justice Department lawyers argued that Congress did not let the president unlawfully usurp its power.

They said the law ``vests the president with authority to determine ... whether items of spending that Congress has appropriated will in fact be spent. That grant of authority is fully consistent with historical practice.″

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