President ready to exercise first veto

With a savage attack on a Republican Foreign Affairs Bill before Congress, President Bill Clinton this week moved a step closer towards exercising his presidential veto - a power which, unlike every occupant of the White House since the mid- 19th century, he has thus far failed to use.

Ever since Republicans seized control of Congress last November, a presidential veto has seemed inevitable. But, despite urgings from his supporters to draw a line against his opponents and re-assert his role in national policy-making, Mr Clinton has passed over every opportunity. The most recent was a broadcasting tax bill that contained a $30m (pounds 18m) loophole for the media magnate, Rupert Murdoch

As a result, Mr Clinton is the first president since the little remembered Millard Fillmore, in office between 1850 and 1853, never to have used the veto. The others relished the chance to flex their constitutional muscle, even when their own party controlled Congress.

Democrats ruled Capitol Hill throughout the Depression and the Second World War. But that did not stop Mr Clinton's political idol, Franklin Roosevelt, from vetoing 635 bills, roughly one a week throughout 12 years in office. By the same point in their terms, Jimmy Carter and George Bush had vetoed 19 and 21 bills.

The Clinton record is a perfect zero, a performance only reinforcing the conventional Washington wisdom that the President is a soft touch who is scared of confrontation.

That reputation may soon be given the lie. Mr Clinton has warned that he will veto Republican bills that would roll back anti-gun legislation and make cuts in various education, housing and other programmes approved by the previous Democratic Congress.

This week, mooted changes in welfare came under the veto threat. Now, foreign policy has joined the list.

The legislation, contained in separate but similar bills before the House and Senate, would slash US foreign aid, merge or abolish foreign-policy agencies, and impose important changes in policy towards Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea.

In a blistering attack this week, Mr Clinton described the proposals as a "frontal assault" on presidential authority, and as the "most isolationist" legislation produced by Congress in half a century.

The House Bill, virtually certain of passage, is due to be voted on today, while the Senate measure, shepherded by Jesse Helms, is scheduled to come to the floor in June. In its present form, said the President, "I will veto it."

But he may yet not live up to his word. The "line-item veto" - the power that would allow a President to block parts of a bill which he otherwise favoured - is not yet law. Until it is, Republicans can be expected to sweeten the bills that Mr Clinton dislikes with provisions he can hardly turn down.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - OTE £37,000

£16000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The ideal candidate will want t...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada