521 U.S. 811 (1997), 96-1671, Raines v. Byrd

Docket Nº:96-1671
Citation:521 U.S. 811, 117 S.Ct. 2312, 138 L.Ed.2d 849, 65 U.S.L.W. 4705
Case Date:June 26, 1997
Court:United States Supreme Court

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521 U.S. 811 (1997)

117 S.Ct. 2312, 138 L.Ed.2d 849, 65 U.S.L.W. 4705



BYRD et al


United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1997

Argued May 27, 1997



Appellees, Members of the 104th Congress, voted "nay" when Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act (Act), which gives the President the authority to cancel certain spending and tax benefit measures after he has signed them into law. The day after the Act went into effect, they filed suit against appellants, Executive Branch officials, challenging the Act's constitutionality. The District Court denied appellants' motion to dismiss, finding that appellees' claim that the Act diluted their Article I voting power was sufficient to confer Article III standing; and that their claim was ripe, even though the President had not yet used the Act's cancellation authority, because they found themselves in a position of unanticipated and unwelcome subservience to the President before and after their votes on appropriations bills. The court then granted appellees summary judgment, holding that the Act violated the Presentment Clause, Art. I, § 7, cl. 2, and constituted an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the President.


Appellees lack standing to bring this suit. Pp. 818-830.

(a) The federal courts have jurisdiction over this dispute only if it is a case or controversy. Art. III, § 2. In order to meet the standing element of the case-or-controversy requirement, appellees must allege a personal injury that is particularized, concrete, and otherwise judicially cognizable. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561; Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751. This Court insists on strict compliance with the jurisdictional standing requirement, see, e. g., id., at 752, and its standing inquiry is especially rigorous when reaching the merits of a dispute would force it to decide the constitutionality of an action taken by one of the other two branches of the Federal Government. Pp. 818-820.

(b) This Court has never had occasion to rule on the legislative standing question presented here. Appellees are not helped by Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 512-514, in which the Court held that a Congressman's challenge to the constitutionality of his exclusion from the House of Representatives presented an Article III case or controversy. Appellees have not been singled out for specially unfavorable treatment as opposed to other Members of their respective bodies, but

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claim that the Act causes a type of institutional injury which damages all Members of Congress equally. And their claim is based on a loss of political power, not loss of something to which they are personally entitled, such as their seats as Members of Congress after their constituents elected them. Pp. 820-821.

(c) Appellees' claim also does not fall within the Court's holding in Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433, the one case in which standing has been upheld for legislators claiming an institutional injury. There, the Court held that state legislators who had been locked in a tie vote that would have defeated the State's ratification of a proposed federal constitutional amendment, and who alleged that their votes were nullified when the Lieutenant Governor broke the tie by casting his vote for ratification, had "a plain, direct and adequate interest in maintaining the effectiveness of their votes." Id., at 438. In contrast, appellees have not alleged that they voted for a specific bill, that there were sufficient votes to pass the bill, and that the bill was nonetheless deemed defeated. In the vote on the Act, their votes were given full effect; they simply lost that vote. To uphold standing here would require a drastic extension of Coleman, even accepting appellees' argument that the Act has changed the "meaning" and "effectiveness" of their vote on appropriations bills, for there is a vast difference between the level of vote nullification at issue in Coleman and the abstract dilution of institutional power appellees allege. Pp. 821-826.

(d) Historical practice cuts against appellees' position as well. Several episodes in our history show that in analogous confrontations between one or both Houses of Congress and the Executive Branch, no suit was brought on the basis of claimed injury to official authority or power. If appellees' claim were sustained, presumably several Presidents would have had standing to challenge the Tenure of Office Act, which prevented the removal of a Presidential appointee without Congress' consent; the Attorney General could have challenged the one-House veto provision because it rendered his authority provisional rather than final; President Ford could have challenged the Federal Election Campaign Act's appointment provisions which were struck down in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1; and a Member of Congress could have challenged the validity of President Coolidge's pocket veto that was sustained in The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655. While a system granting such standing would not be irrational, our Constitution's regime contemplates a more restrictive role for Article III courts. See United States v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166, 192 (Powell, J., concurring). Pp. 826-829.

(e) Some importance must be attached to the fact that appellees have not been authorized to represent their respective Houses in this action,

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and indeed both Houses actively oppose their suit. In addition, the conclusion reached here neither deprives Members of Congress of an adequate remedy—since they may repeal the Act or exempt appropriations bills from its reach—nor forecloses the Act from constitutional challenge by someone who suffers judicially cognizable injury resulting from it. Pp. 829-830.

956 F.Supp. 25, vacated and remanded.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Souter, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Ginsburg, J., joined, post, p. 830. Stevens, J., post, p. 835, and Breyer, J., post, p. 838, filed dissenting opinions.

Acting Solicitor General Dellinger argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Assistant Attorney General Hunger, Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, Malcolm L. Stewart, and Douglas N. Letter.

Alan B. Morrison argued the cause for appellees. With him on the briefs were Lloyd N. Cutler, Louis R. Cohen, Charles J. Cooper, Michael A. Carvin, David Thompson, and Michael Davidson. [*]

Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.[† ]

The District Court for the District of Columbia declared the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional. On this direct appeal, we hold that appellees lack standing to bring this suit,

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and therefore direct that the judgment of the District Court be vacated and the complaint dismissed.


The appellees are six Members of Congress, four of whom served as Senators and two of whom served as Congressmen in the 104th Congress (1995-1996).[1] On March 27, 1996, the Senate passed a bill entitled the Line Item Veto Act by a vote of 69 to 31. All four appellee Senators voted "nay." 142 Cong. Rec. S2995. The next day, the House of Representatives passed the identical bill by a vote of 232 to 177. Both appellee Congressmen voted "nay." Id., at H2986. On April 4, 1996, the President signed the Line Item Veto Act (Act) into law. Pub. L. 104-130, 110 Stat. 1200, codified at 2 U.S.C. § 691 et seq. (1994 ed., Supp. II). The Act went into effect on January 1, 1997. See Pub. L. 104-130, § 5. The next day, appellees filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the two appellants, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, alleging that the Act was unconstitutional.

The provisions of the Act do not use the term "veto." Instead, the President is given the authority to "cancel" certain spending and tax benefit measures after he has signed them into law. Specifically, the Act provides:

"[T]he President may, with respect to any bill or joint resolution that has been signed into law pursuant to Article I, section 7, of the Constitution of the United States, cancel in whole—(1) any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority; (2) any item of new direct spending; or (3) any limited tax benefit; if the President—

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"(A) determines that such cancellation will—(i) reduce the Federal budget deficit; (ii) not impair any essential Government functions; and (iii) not harm the national interest; and

"(B) notifies the Congress of such cancellation by transmitting a special message . . . within five calendar days (excluding Sundays) after the enactment of the law [to which the cancellation applies]." § 691(a) (some indentations omitted).

The President's "cancellation" under the Act takes effect when the "special message" notifying Congress of the cancellation is received in the House and Senate. With respect to dollar amounts of "discretionary budget authority," a cancellation means "to rescind."§ 691e(4)(A). With respect to "new direct spending" items or "limited tax benefit[s]," a cancellation means that the relevant legal provision, legal obligation, or budget authority is "prevent[ed] . . . from having legal force or effect." §§ 691e(4)(B), (C).

The Act establishes expedited procedures in both Houses for the consideration of "disapproval bills," § 691d, bills or joint resolutions which, if enacted into law by the familiar procedures set out in Article I, § 7, of the Constitution, would render the President's cancellation "null and void," § 691b(a). "Disapproval bills" may only be one sentence long and must read as follows after the enacting clause: "That Congress...

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