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Clinton Lacked Authority on Veto

December 20, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton lacked authority when he used the line-item veto on a spending bill provision allowing veteran federal employees to change pension systems, the White House said Saturday.

The reversal applies only to the pension item and will not affect continued use of the president’s authority to strike individual cost items from legislation, spokesman Barry Toiv said.

The change in position will allow 1.1 million federal and postal workers hired before 1983 to consider changing to a newer retirement plan that includes a stock investment program. The employees might be given an ``open season″ next year, a period when the workers could make the switch.

The Washington Post, quoting administration sources, said officials realized the pension provision fell outside Clinton’s discretionary budget authority, contrary to what he believed when he struck down the pension language.

Toiv said the president acted against the provision in the first place ``because it would cost taxpayers $251 million over 10 years. It never was debated in the House or Senate and was essentially snuck into the conference report at the last minute.

``The president continues to believe the line-item veto is a useful tool for curtailing wasteful spending and intends to make use of it in the future,″ Toiv said.

The Justice Department and the National Treasury Employees Union will present a federal court with a consent agreement detailing the administration’s position, the spokesman added.

The union sued the government over the veto. Arguments had been scheduled in a few weeks in U.S. District Court on the NTEU challenge and two other lawsuits challenging the veto power’s constitutionality. The two other challenges remain.

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