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Jimmy Carter and the Legislative Veto: Fighting Federal Comity Encroachment
Unformatted Document Text:  the legislator planned to say and he had heard it before. Being respectful does not mean always accepting requests for meetings and indeed Carter had met on other occasions with Levitas and other legislative veto supporters. 6 After all the revisions and consultations, Carter delivered his message to Congress on June 21, 1978. Carter accepted stronger and more proactive Congresses. He respected their level of engagement but called for constructive – and more constitutional – use of their efforts. Laying out his views on the legislative veto, he encouraged his Congressional counterparts to pursue other means for oversight; ones that resided more clearly within the constitutional separation of powers and the purview of federal comity. In recent years, the Congress has strengthened its oversight of Executive Branch decisions. I welcome that effort. Unfortunately, there has been increasing use of one oversight device that can do more harm than good – the “legislative veto.”… This proliferation threatens to upset the constitutional balance of responsibilities between the branches of government of the United States. It represents a fundamental departure from the way the government has been administered throughout American history. Carter added that legislative vetoes actually slow the pace of reform because they overburden an already full Congressional agenda. Hence Carter unveiled his “report-and- wait” alternative. Respecting Congress and the constitution, Carter offered solutions and alternatives, not just rejections and defiance. I urge Congress to avoid including legislative veto provisions in legislation so that confrontations can be avoided. For areas where Congress feels special oversight of regulations or other actions is needed, I urge the adoption of “report-and-wait” provisions instead of legislative vetoes, Under such a provision, the Executive “reports” a proposed action to Congress and “waits” for a specified period before putting it into effect. This waiting period permits a dialogue with Congress to work out 6 Letter, Stu Eizenstat to The President, June 20, 1978, “Legislative Veto – Presidential Statement, 6/28/78, (6/6/78 – 6/29/78), 06/06/1978 – 06/29/1978” Folder, Box 44, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library; Letter, Rick Hutcheson to Stu Eizenstat, June 21, 1978, “Legislative Veto – Presidential Statement, 6/28/78, (6/6/78 – 6/29/78), 06/06/1978 – 06/29/1978” Folder, Box 44, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library. 6

Authors: Friedman, Jason.
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the legislator planned to say and he had heard it before. Being respectful does not mean
always accepting requests for meetings and indeed Carter had met on other occasions
with Levitas and other legislative veto supporters.
After all the revisions and consultations, Carter delivered his message to Congress
on June 21, 1978. Carter accepted stronger and more proactive Congresses. He
respected their level of engagement but called for constructive – and more constitutional
– use of their efforts. Laying out his views on the legislative veto, he encouraged his
Congressional counterparts to pursue other means for oversight; ones that resided more
clearly within the constitutional separation of powers and the purview of federal comity.
In recent years, the Congress has strengthened its oversight of Executive
Branch decisions. I welcome that effort. Unfortunately, there has been
increasing use of one oversight device that can do more harm than good –
the “legislative veto.”… This proliferation threatens to upset the
constitutional balance of responsibilities between the branches of
government of the United States. It represents a fundamental departure
from the way the government has been administered throughout American
history.
Carter added that legislative vetoes actually slow the pace of reform because they
overburden an already full Congressional agenda. Hence Carter unveiled his “report-and-
wait” alternative. Respecting Congress and the constitution, Carter offered solutions and
alternatives, not just rejections and defiance.
I urge Congress to avoid including legislative veto provisions in
legislation so that confrontations can be avoided. For areas where
Congress feels special oversight of regulations or other actions is needed, I
urge the adoption of “report-and-wait” provisions instead of legislative
vetoes, Under such a provision, the Executive “reports” a proposed action
to Congress and “waits” for a specified period before putting it into effect.
This waiting period permits a dialogue with Congress to work out
6
Letter, Stu Eizenstat to The President, June 20, 1978, “Legislative Veto – Presidential Statement, 6/28/78,
(6/6/78 – 6/29/78), 06/06/1978 – 06/29/1978” Folder, Box 44, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter
Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library; Letter, Rick Hutcheson to Stu Eizenstat, June 21, 1978,
“Legislative Veto – Presidential Statement, 6/28/78, (6/6/78 – 6/29/78), 06/06/1978 – 06/29/1978” Folder,
Box 44, Records of the Domestic Policy Staff (Carter Administration), 1976-1981, Jimmy Carter Library.
6


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