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Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity Encroachment
Unformatted Document Text:  statement allowed Carter to respectfully criticize Congressional methods for legislative oversight while not rejecting what he considered to be an otherwise strong bill. Intent to try and put comity before conflicts, Carter tried at every turn to exhaust cordial means to thwart the use of legislative vetoes. However, patience would only go so far. 3 By his second year in office, Carter recognized the adamancy of Congress – especially the House – on the legislative veto issue. For example, on February 23, 1978 “Mr. Legislative Veto” – Elliot Levitas – introduced HR 11112 that would require all rules to be submitted to Congress for review. In short, it would add a legislative veto clause to every bill. Determined to be the champion of the legislative veto in Congress and in the eyes of the press, this bill encapsulated Levitas’ “crusade” to make every rule subject to the device. HR 11112 never reached a vote on the floor, but it was a harbinger of fights to come. 4 The Carter administration stood its ground and rallied enough support in Congress to carry its position on the legislative veto. Contrary to some of Carter’s early political bungling and the negative image imposed by some critical historians, Carter’s efforts on the legislative veto manifested into clear and decisive political victories. 5 Carter followed up on these victories in 1978 with an even clearer statement of opposition to legislative 3 Signing Statement, Jimmy Carter, July 28, 1977, “Legislative Veto – Bills with Veto Provisions, (1978)” Folder, Box 43, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library; Congressional Record, 95 th Congress, 1 st Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 1:347; Congressional Record, 95 th Congress, 1 st Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 16:19871; Congressional Record, 95 th Congress, 1 st Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 21:26185. 4 Specifically HR11112 called for “A bill to amend section 553 of title 5, United States Code, to require submission to Congress of rules promulgated thereunder, and to provide for disapproval of such rules by enactment of a joint resolution of disapproval,” in essence every rule would be subject to legislative veto. Memorandum, John M. Harmon to Robert J. Lipshutz and Stuart E. Eizenstat, March 23, 1978, “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. For the commentary on Levitas, see Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle, chapter two. For the quotes see page 38. 5 Congressional Record, 95 th Congress, 2 nd Session, 1978, Volume 124, part 24:32332, 32335. The quote is actually from the July 17, 1978 edition of the Courier Journal. For an example of the critiques of Carter’s Presidential performance, see Clark R. Mollenhoff, The President Who Failed, (New York: MacMillan, 1980). 4

Authors: Friedman, Jason.
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statement allowed Carter to respectfully criticize Congressional methods for legislative
oversight while not rejecting what he considered to be an otherwise strong bill. Intent to
try and put comity before conflicts, Carter tried at every turn to exhaust cordial means to
thwart the use of legislative vetoes. However, patience would only go so far.
By his second year in office, Carter recognized the adamancy of Congress –
especially the House – on the legislative veto issue. For example, on February 23, 1978
“Mr. Legislative Veto” – Elliot Levitas – introduced HR 11112 that would require all
rules to be submitted to Congress for review. In short, it would add a legislative veto
clause to every bill. Determined to be the champion of the legislative veto in Congress
and in the eyes of the press, this bill encapsulated Levitas’ “crusade” to make every rule
subject to the device. HR 11112 never reached a vote on the floor, but it was a harbinger
of fights to come.
The Carter administration stood its ground and rallied enough support in Congress
to carry its position on the legislative veto. Contrary to some of Carter’s early political
bungling and the negative image imposed by some critical historians, Carter’s efforts on
the legislative veto manifested into clear and decisive political victories.
Carter followed
up on these victories in 1978 with an even clearer statement of opposition to legislative
3
Signing Statement, Jimmy Carter, July 28, 1977, “Legislative Veto – Bills with Veto Provisions, (1978)”
Folder, Box 43, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter
Library; Congressional Record, 95
th
Congress, 1
st
Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 1:347; Congressional
Record, 95
th
Congress, 1
st
Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 16:19871; Congressional Record, 95
th
Congress, 1
st
Session, 1977, Volume 123, part 21:26185.
4
Specifically HR11112 called for “A bill to amend section 553 of title 5, United States Code, to require
submission to Congress of rules promulgated thereunder, and to provide for disapproval of such rules by
enactment of a joint resolution of disapproval,” in essence every rule would be subject to legislative veto.
Memorandum, John M. Harmon to Robert J. Lipshutz and Stuart E. Eizenstat, March 23, 1978,
“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. For the commentary on Levitas, see Craig,
Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle, chapter two. For the quotes see page 38.
5
Congressional Record, 95
th
Congress, 2
nd
Session, 1978, Volume 124, part 24:32332, 32335. The quote is
actually from the July 17, 1978 edition of the Courier Journal. For an example of the critiques of Carter’s
Presidential performance, see Clark R. Mollenhoff, The President Who Failed, (New York: MacMillan,
1980).
4


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