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Fisher: Obama’s Objections to Committee Veto Misguided

Executive departments have found it both practicable and necessary to submit certain proposals to committees. Agency budget manuals are very specific in identifying the actions that require committee approval.

If Obama really wanted to eliminate committee vetoes, he could send a memo to executive agencies and command them to delete from their budget manuals all references to committee approval. Up to now, both branches have understood that a rigid and doctrinaire application of Chadha would seriously damage executive and legislative needs. Agencies have both a moral and legal duty to comply with their written regulations.

Eliminating committee vetoes would deprive executive agencies of the flexibility to carry out complex duties. The federal government needs to perform effectively. Committee vetoes serve that purpose. There are many legitimate constitutional issues for Obama to fight over. Committee review of how agencies change some spending decisions throughout the fiscal year is not one.

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to come to Washington, D.C., to solve problems, get things done and lead the country out of political gridlock. He said leaders in Washington “seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way.” After three years in office, his administration should not invite and encourage new methods of obstruction.

Louis Fisher is scholar in residence at the Constitution Project after working four decades at the Library of Congress, serving as senior specialist in separation of powers for the Congressional Research Service and specialist in constitutional law at the Law Library.

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