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No. 96-1671 Raines v. Byrd (96-1671), 521 U.S. 811 (1997)
Concurrence
[ Souter ]
Syllabus
Dissent
[ Stevens ]
Dissent
[ Breyer ]
Opinion
[ Rehnquist ]
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No. 96-1671


FREDERICK D. RAINES, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET, et al., APPELLANTS v. ROBERT C. BYRD et al.

on appeal from the united states district court for the district of columbia

[June 26, 1997]

Justice Stevens, dissenting.

The Line Item Veto Act purports to establish a procedure for the creation of laws that are truncated versions of bills that have been passed by the Congress and presented to the President for signature. If the procedure were valid, it would deny every Senator and every Representative any opportunity to vote for or against the truncated measure that survives the exercise of the President's cancellation authority. Because the opportunity to cast such votes is a right guaranteed by the text of the Constitution, I think it clear that the persons who are deprived of that right by the Act have standing to challenge its constitutionality. Moreover, because the impairment of that constitutional right has an immediate impact on their official powers, in my judgment they need not wait until after the President has exercised his cancellation authority to bring suit. Finally, the same reason that the respondents have standing provides a sufficient basis for concluding that the statute is unconstitutional.

Article I, § 7, of the Constitution provides that every Senator and every Representative has the power to vote on "Every Bill. . . before it become a law" either as a result of its having been signed by the President or as a result of its "Reconsideration" in the light of the President's "Objections." [n.1] In contrast, the Line Item Veto Act establishes a mechanism by which bills passed by both Houses of Congress will eventually produce laws that have not passed either House of Congress and that have not been voted on by any Senator or Representative.

Assuming for the moment that this procedure is constitutionally permissible, and that the President will from time to time exercise the power to cancel portions of a just enacted law, it follows that the statute deprives every Senator and every Representative of the right to vote for or against measures that may become law. The appellees cast their challenge to the constitutionality of the Act in a slightly different way. Their complaint asserted that the Act "alter[s] the legal and practical effect of all votes they may cast on bills containing such separately vetoable items" and "divest[s] the[m] of their constitutional role in the repeal of legislation." Complaint ¶ 14. These two claimed injuries are at base the same as the injury on which I rest my analysis. The reason the complaint frames the issues in the way that it does is related to the Act's technical operation. Under the Act, the President would receive and sign a bill exactly as it passed both Houses, and would exercise his partial veto power only after the law had been enacted. See 2 U. S. C. A. §691(a) (Supp. 1997). The appellees thus articulated their claim as a combination of the diminished effect of their initial vote and the circumvention of their right to participate in the subsequent repeal. Whether one looks at the claim from this perspective, or as a simple denial of their right to vote on the precise text that will ultimately become law, the basic nature of the injury caused by the Act is the same.

In my judgment, the deprivation of this right-- essential to the legislator's office--constitutes a sufficient injury to provide every Member of Congress with standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute. If the dilution of an individual voter's power to elect representatives provides that voter with standing--as it surely does, see, e.g., Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204-208 (1962)--the deprivation of the right possessed by each Senator and Representative to vote for or against the precise text of any bill before it becomes law must also be a sufficient injury to create Article III standing for them. [n.2] Although, as Justice Breyer demonstrates, see ante at 2-5 (dissenting opinion), the majority's attempt to distinguish Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433, 438 (1939), is not persuasive, I need not rely on that case to support my view that the Members of Congress have standing to sue in this instance. In Coleman, the legislators complained that their votes were denied full effectiveness. See ibid.; see also Dyer v. Blair, 390 F. Supp. 1291, 1297, n.12 (ND Ill. 1975). But the law at issue here does not simply alter the effect of the legislators' votes; it denies them any opportunity at all to cast votes for or against the truncated versions of the bills presented to the President. [n.3]

Moreover, the appellees convincingly explain how the immediate, constant threat of the partial veto power has a palpable effect on their current legislative choices. See Brief for Appellees 23-25, 29-31. Because the Act has this immediate and important impact on the powers of Members of Congress, and on the manner in which they undertake their legislative responsibilities, they need not await an exercise of the President's cancellation authority to institute the litigation that the statute itself authorizes. See 2 U. S. C. A. § 692(a)(1) (Supp. 1997).

Given the fact that the authority at stake is granted by the plain and unambiguous text of Article I, it is equally clear to me that the statutory attempt to eliminate it is invalid.

Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the District Court.


Notes

1 The full text of the relevant paragraph of § 7 provides:

"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law." U. S. Const., Art. I, § 7.

2 The respondents' assertion of their right to vote on legislation is not simply a generalized interest in the proper administration of government, cf. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 754 (1984), and the legislators' personal interest in the ability to exercise their constitutionally ensured power to vote on laws is certainly distinct from the interest that an individual citizen challenging the Act might assert.

3 The majority's reference to the absence of any similar suit in earlier disputes between Congress and the President, see ante, at 14-17, does not strike me as particularly relevant. First, the fact that others did not choose to bring suit does not necessarily mean the Constitution would have precluded them from doing so. Second, because Congress did not authorize declaratory judgment actions until the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 955, the fact that President Johnson did not bring such an action in 1868 is not entirely surprising.