Vital Signs

Reining in the Feds

On June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court dodged the constitutional questions surrounding the Line Item Veto Act. In Raines v. Byrd, the Court claimed it had no jurisdiction and dismissed the complaint. Federal courts only have jurisdiction over a dispute if it is a "case" or "controversy." An element of the case or controversy requirement is that the party bringing the suit must have standing, which is defined as "a personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief."

The senators and congressmen questioning the constitutionality of the Line Item Veto Act cited the case of Coleman v. Miller, in which the Court upheld standing for Kansas state legislators protesting actions of the state's lieutenant governor. When the state senate deadlocked on ratification of the Child Labor Amendment to the federal Constitution, the lieutenant governor cast the deciding ballot for the amendment. State senators and house members sued, arguing that the legislature had not actually ratified the amendment. In Raines v. Byrd, the Court limited Coleman to the proposition that "legislators whose votes would not have been sufficient to defeat (or enact) a specific legislative act have standing to sue if that legislative action goes into effect (or does not go into effect), on the...

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