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Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity Encroachment
Unformatted Document Text:  provide an exogenous check on Presidential power but also because it allows them to re- assess legislation post-passage and post-implementation. With the legislative veto as a fall-back, oversight device, Congress need not undergo the often-painful process of anticipating contingencies, specifying boundaries, and controlling delegations of power. Because it can always use the legislative veto, Congress escapes the necessity for careful consideration of statutory enactments. In essence, Barnett argued that legislative vetoes give Congress a second bite at the apple which leads to sloppy lawmaking and increased backlog. If Congress faced less pressure to get everything right the first time Barnett predicted there would be a growing deference to pass it first and fix it later. Subsequently, vaguer bills would be passed and Members would actually spend more time monitoring existing legislation than they currently spent drafting and debating legislation. 2 Early Battles: Still getting his feet wet in Washington and trying to be as cordial with Congress as possible, when initially confronted with legislative veto clauses in 1977 Carter reacted with calm and a complacency that would evaporate later on in his term of office. This initial spirit is best demonstrated by HR 186, “A bill to implement the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea”. Carter signed HR 186 in to law but in a signing statement, he expressed “clear constitutional reservations” about a section of the law that allowed “Congress, by concurrent resolution, to disapprove a proposed amendment to the convention.” Carter added that he believed this provision “may violate” Article I, Section 7 of the constitution. This use of a Presidential signing 2 Memorandum, Robert R. Barnett to Carter-Mondale Transition Team, December 4, 1976, “Legislative Veto, (12/76-6/80), 12/1976-06/1980” Folder, Box 42, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library. 3

Authors: Friedman, Jason.
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provide an exogenous check on Presidential power but also because it allows them to re-
assess legislation post-passage and post-implementation.
With the legislative veto as a fall-back, oversight device, Congress need
not undergo the often-painful process of anticipating contingencies,
specifying boundaries, and controlling delegations of power. Because it
can always use the legislative veto, Congress escapes the necessity for
careful consideration of statutory enactments.
In essence, Barnett argued that legislative vetoes give Congress a second bite at the apple
which leads to sloppy lawmaking and increased backlog. If Congress faced less pressure
to get everything right the first time Barnett predicted there would be a growing
deference to pass it first and fix it later. Subsequently, vaguer bills would be passed and
Members would actually spend more time monitoring existing legislation than they
currently spent drafting and debating legislation.
Early Battles:
Still getting his feet wet in Washington and trying to be as cordial with Congress
as possible, when initially confronted with legislative veto clauses in 1977 Carter reacted
with calm and a complacency that would evaporate later on in his term of office. This
initial spirit is best demonstrated by HR 186, “A bill to implement the Convention on the
International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea”. Carter signed HR 186 in to
law but in a signing statement, he expressed “clear constitutional reservations” about a
section of the law that allowed “Congress, by concurrent resolution, to disapprove a
proposed amendment to the convention.” Carter added that he believed this provision
“may violate” Article I, Section 7 of the constitution. This use of a Presidential signing
2
Memorandum, Robert R. Barnett to Carter-Mondale Transition Team, December 4, 1976, “Legislative
Veto, (12/76-6/80), 12/1976-06/1980” Folder, Box 42, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter
Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library.
3


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