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034 Who vetoes bills?

34. Who vetoes bills?
The President

Congress is the part of the U.S. government that is responsible for making laws. However, it cannot do it without the president’s help. Every time that the members of Congress agree on a bill (or an idea for a law), it has to be sent to the president for his or her approval. If the president does not think that the bill is a good idea, he or she can veto the bill so that it doesn’t become a law. If Congress still wants that bill to become a law, it can vote again and if two-thirds (or 67%) of the members agree, they can override the president’s veto so that the bill becomes a law even though the president doesn’t like it.

But what happens when the president thinks that some parts of the bill are good but other parts are bad? U.S. bills can be very long, complex documents that have hundreds or thousands of pages and cover (or talk about) many different things. Can the president veto just one or a few things in a bill, but still have the rest of the bill become law?

That question was being asked a lot in the mid-1990s. Many members of Congress wanted the president to have line-item veto power, or the ability to veto just single line items, or small parts, of a larger bill. In 1996, Congress passed a bill called the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. President Bill Clinton signed it and it became a law. With this law, the president could veto individual parts of appropriation bills, or bills about how the government should spend its money. President Clinton used this power a few times.

However, the members of Congress who didn’t like this law thought that it was unconstitutional, or went against the United States’ most important legal document, the Constitution. The issue was presented to the Supreme Court, the most powerful court in the US., which decided that the line-item veto was
unconstitutional. The Supreme Court believed that the way the Constitution is written, the president must approve or veto whole bills and not just parts of them. So in 1998 the Line Item Veto Act was repealed (or taken away so that it was not a law anymore). President Clinton was the only president who was ever able to make a line-item veto.


bill – a proposal or an idea for a new law
* The senator wants to write a bill that would punish factories that don't treat their workers well.

to veto – to vote against something; to reject something, especially so that it cannot become a law
* Why did you veto the new law? More than 70% of the people who voted for you supported it, so they expected you to support it, too.

to override – to change another person's or organization's decision by using one's power or authority
* The workers wrote a letter saying that they wanted more vacation time, but their manager overrode their proposal and said they needed to work harder.

to cover – to talk about; to discuss or describe a certain topic
* This book covers the early life and career of Rachel Carson.

line item – a single line or part of a proposal, bill, or budget
* Why does your department's budget have a line item for massages?

appropriations – related to how the government decides how it will spend its money
* Teachers from all over the country are trying to get Congress to have bigger appropriations for education.

unconstitutional – against the Constitution; against the law
* In the United States, it is unconstitutional to tell people what religion they must follow.

to repeal – to take back; to undo something, especially a law that was already made
* The city repealed an unpopular law that didn't let stores sell alcohol on Saturday evenings.