Line Item Nonsense

“Can you see them?
See right through them
They have no shield
No secrets to reveal.”– Jane Wiedlin And Terry Hall

Back in the 1990s there was a whole national debate about whether the president should be given the ability to use a line item veto. The intentions were good at the time. Based on the legislative process, pork was beginning to run out of control. Of course, no one is quite sure when the pork problem really began.

One person’s pork is another person’s bacon. At least that’s what they say. The idea was that the president would veto the parts of bills that were wasteful and leave the good parts of bills intact. It seemed like such a good idea, but the constitutionality came into question. Furthermore, it didn’t seem like such a good idea in retrospect.

The problem is that it gives the executive too much power. The legislative process is like a dance. Legislators get to add stuff they want to any bill and fellow legislators and the executive have to decide whether they want to kill the whole thing to combat the bad additions. It’s a fascinating process for people that are political junkies.

The prospect of bypassing that whole dance to eliminate waste seemed like a good idea at first. Unfortunately, it bypasses the reason for the dance. It gives the chief executive legislative powers and that throws a whole monkey wrench into the separation of powers. Leave it to Greg Abbott to provide a first-hand demonstration of why the line item veto is a bad idea.

Recently, Abbott threatened to veto a portion of the bill that funded the legislature and their salaries. Legislator salaries are barely a thing. It’s more an honorarium than a salary. The biggest losers are the staffers that rely on those salaries to live. They lose all that if Abbott follows through.

The proponents of the line item veto never considered this possibility. Abbott says he is withholding their salaries until they do their job. What exactly does he think their job is? I am just a humble political science guy with but a Bachelor’s Degree in political studies, but it seems to me the legislature is there to pass and reject bills. Isn’t that what they did?

Naturally, that’s not how Abbott sees it. He is angry that the Democrats pulled a maneuver that prevented the voter suppression bill from passing. The governor will have to wait until the special session to keep more Texas citizens from voting. In the meantime, he wants to punish legislators and their staffs for the inconvenience.

In the meantime, we thank the governor for his demonstration. People on both sides of the aisle thought the line item veto was a good idea. It seemed like a creative way to keep spending under control. We never imagined a state or national executive would abuse their power this way. Thank you Greg Abbott for giving us an education.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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