Vetoing is not bullying. But what are Maine’s Republican legislators up to?

Some people are up in arms about Governor LePage using the line-item veto on certain budgetary provisions, with some even calling it “bullying.”

It is not bullying.

In 1995, the people of Maine passed a provision to give the governor the line-item veto. This was the same year that the new Republican-controlled U.S. Congress passed the same provision, after having promised to do so in the Contract with America.

Three U.S.Senators rejoicing the ruling that the line-item veto is unconstitutional.

By the way, in 1998 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the line-item veto was unconstitutional because it conflicted with the fundamental idea of separation of powers, taking too much power from the legislative branch and giving too much to the executive.  The U.S. Constitution’s veto provision required the executive to veto an entire bill, not a portion. These Senators pictured to the right were thrilled with the Court’s decision because it preserved one of the the legislature’s key prerogatives.

Maine’s line-item veto cannot be unconstitutional because it was passed as a constitutional amendment. This is not relevant to its constitutionality, but perhaps it’s worth noting that the vote was overwhelming, 286,929-115,216 votes.

The newspapers tell us that the provision has never been used. But its novelty does not make it bullying.

There are plenty of things Governor LePage has said or done that could be considered rude and disrespectful toward various individuals, groups and institutions — including the Maine Legislature. This is not one of them.

As he has the power to use the line-item veto, the legislative branch has the power to overturn those vetoes.

The political spotlight now should rest on the Republicans in the legislature who voted for the provisions LePage vetoed. Their decision not to reconvene to vote on the vetoes suggests they may be trying to have it both ways, to vote for the bipartisan compromise and then to refuse to uphold it.

House Speaker Nutting and Senate President Raye say the legislature will take up these matters when they reconvene in May.  All eyes will be upon their party, to see whether they stand by their original votes or with their party’s governor.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.