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Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity Encroachment
Unformatted Document Text:  “Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity Encroachment”, Midwest Political Science Association Annual National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 4, 2008. Introduction: A legislative veto gives Congress the power to nullify regulations by a one-house vote that is subject neither to approval of the other branch of Congress nor to presentment to the President for signature or veto. Conceived in the early 1930s, every President from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson dealt with legislative vetoes, though their encounters remained infrequent and occasional. However, as the arrogance and bravado of the imperial presidency peaked in the early 1970s under Richard Nixon, members of Congress fought back with the full arsenal at their disposal. This included a proliferation of legislative veto clauses as an exogenous check on federal power. Representative Elliot Levitas (D-GA), championed the cause of the legislative veto in Congress, a crusade that earned him the nickname, “Mr. Legislative Veto”. He firmly believed additional Congressional oversight would check abusive presidents and runaway federal regulations. Frustrated by the growing abuse of presidential power, the number of legislative veto clauses passed by Congresses during Richard Nixon’s presidency – including the Gerald Ford interregnum – was almost triple the number during the time of Lyndon Johnson. 1 1 Evidence of Levitas’ nickname is ubiquitous with in the literature and in the papers of Carter’s staff. See, for example, Barbara Hinkson Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), ix. Fifteen legislative vetoes were passed during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, followed by eighteen during the Harry Truman administration, thirty-one during the Dwight Eisenhower administration, twenty-two during the John Kennedy administration, and thirty-six during the Lyndon Johnson administration. However, during the Richard Nixon administration – including the Gerald Ford interregnum – that number jumped to one hundred and fifteen. See Article, “Legislative Veto and the Constitution - A Reexamination”, March 1978, “Legislative Veto – Articles & Testimony” Folder, Box 43, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library; Bernard Schwartz, “Legislative Veto and the Constitution - A Reexamination,” George Washington Law Review (46:3) (March 1978), 351-2; Arthur John Keefe, “The Legislative Veto: Now You See it, Now You Don’t (I),” American Bar Association Journal 63 (September 1977), 1296-1300. For Keefe’s quote see page 1296. 1

Authors: Friedman, Jason.
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“Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity
Encroachment”, Midwest Political Science Association Annual National
Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 4, 2008.
Introduction:
A legislative veto gives Congress the power to nullify regulations by a one-house
vote that is subject neither to approval of the other branch of Congress nor to presentment
to the President for signature or veto. Conceived in the early 1930s, every President from
Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson dealt with legislative vetoes, though their
encounters remained infrequent and occasional. However, as the arrogance and bravado
of the imperial presidency peaked in the early 1970s under Richard Nixon, members of
Congress fought back with the full arsenal at their disposal. This included a proliferation
of legislative veto clauses as an exogenous check on federal power. Representative Elliot
Levitas (D-GA), championed the cause of the legislative veto in Congress, a crusade that
earned him the nickname, “Mr. Legislative Veto”. He firmly believed additional
Congressional oversight would check abusive presidents and runaway federal regulations.
Frustrated by the growing abuse of presidential power, the number of legislative veto
clauses passed by Congresses during Richard Nixon’s presidency – including the Gerald
Ford interregnum – was almost triple the number during the time of Lyndon Johnson.
1
Evidence of Levitas’ nickname is ubiquitous with in the literature and in the papers of Carter’s staff. See,
for example, Barbara Hinkson Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle, (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988), ix. Fifteen legislative vetoes were passed during Franklin Roosevelt’s
administration, followed by eighteen during the Harry Truman administration, thirty-one during the Dwight
Eisenhower administration, twenty-two during the John Kennedy administration, and thirty-six during the
Lyndon Johnson administration. However, during the Richard Nixon administration – including the Gerald
Ford interregnum – that number jumped to one hundred and fifteen. See Article, “Legislative Veto and the
Constitution - A Reexamination”, March 1978, “Legislative Veto – Articles & Testimony” Folder, Box 43,
Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library; Bernard
Schwartz, “Legislative Veto and the Constitution - A Reexamination,” George Washington Law Review
(46:3) (March 1978), 351-2; Arthur John Keefe, “The Legislative Veto: Now You See it, Now You Don’t
(I),” American Bar Association Journal 63 (September 1977), 1296-1300. For Keefe’s quote see page
1296.
1


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