So it was that New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, trying to save his city $2.6 billion in disputed federal Medicaid payments, might have killed the measure -- for good. A federal court Thursday upheld Giuliani's claim that the line-item veto was unconstitutional, setting up a decisive battle in the Supreme Court. "The Line-Item Veto Act is unconstitutional because it impermissibly disrupts the balance of powers among the three branches of government," said U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan.
"This is a setback for Clinton," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty. "While the line-item veto would rarely have a major effect on the budget as a whole, it's a great symbolic tool to be able to say you're cutting pork." If Clinton needs a vote on fast track, say, he can lean on a stubborn politician by threatening to cut a pet project. But no longer.
After years of clamoring for the measure under Reagan and Bush, Republicans began to grouse as soon as the tool landed in Clinton's hands. Now, if the Supreme Court kills the measure, it'll be safe for politicians to start demanding it again.