Mnuchin Touts Trump's Call For Unconstitutional Line-Item Veto

"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace had to inform the Treasury secretary that Congress couldn't easily do what the president demanded.

WASHINGTON ― Congress should somehow reinstate the line-item veto even though it was ruled unconstitutional two decades ago, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Sunday without offering any ideas of how the legal objections could be overcome.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Mnuchin defended President Donald Trump’s decision to sign the $1.3 trillion omnibus government spending bill despite opposing much of it. After approving that bill on Friday, Trump called for line-item veto that would allow him to reject specific provisions of a bill without vetoing the entire thing.

After Mnuchin reiterated that position, host Chris Wallace noted that after Congress passed such a measure in the mid-1990s, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

“Congress could pass a rule, OK, that allows” for the line-item veto, Mnuchin said.

Wallace informed him it would actually require a constitutional amendment ― a far heavier lift.

“We don’t need to get into a debate ... there’s different ways of doing this,” Mnuchin said, declining to name any of them.

He then returned to bashing Democrats for many of the spending increases for domestic programs in the bill Trump signed ― the provisions that sparked a torrent of criticism from conservative lawmakers and commentators. They expressed deep disappointment that Trump didn’t veto the entire bill, which would have caused a government shutdown.

It’s unlikely that Congress will attempt to resurrect the line-item veto, which was adopted under former President Bill Clinton and used to strike provisions of certain legislation. A federal judge ruled in 1998 that it violated procedural requirements in the Constitution and upset the balance of powers. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling the same year.

Since then, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama called for Congress to approve versions of a line-item veto that they believed would pass constitutional tests. Neither was successful.

Trump said on Friday that he would never again sign a bill like the omnibus, which was approved by a Congress led by his own party in both chambers. Along with line-item veto power, Trump said that the Senate should do away with the filibuster, which prevents most bills from moving forward without 60 votes.

Trump isn’t likely to have success on that front, either: His own party opposes changing the filibuster rule. 

Clarification: Language in this story has been amended to include more detail about the proposals Bush and Obama made for powers similar to a line-item veto.