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President Clinton Uses Line-Item Veto to Kill 38 Military Projects

By Jonathan Peterson
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Declaring that "the old rules have changed," President Clinton on Monday wielded the line-item veto to strike down 38 military projects that would cost $287 million but were deemed unnecessary by the White House and Pentagon.

"Government must continue to live within its means," Clinton told reporters in the Oval Office, as he prepared to sign the vetoes.

It was the second time Clinton has used the line-item veto power, which enables a president to discard individual tax and spending provisions from larger bills that previously had to be accepted or rejected in their entirety. The line-item authority, sought by presidents for decades, took effect in January.

Congressional champions of the ill-fated projects - unaccustomed to the new White House weapon in budget politics - reacted quickly and angrily to the still unfamiliar exercise of presidential power.

"The line-item veto is no budget-cutting cure all," complained Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., whose state lost a proposed $6.8 million expansion of Army National Guard buildings. "It is nothing more than a club for the White House to use to beat the members of Congress, and it stinks!"

Altogether, Clinton wiped out projects planned for 24 states, as varied as extending a runway on a Florida air base to building a shop for maintaining Army vehicles in Kentucky to expanding hangars for Naval airplanes in Maryland. The items were part of a $9.2 billion military construction bill.

Among the larger proposals shelved were $19.9 million in wharf improvements at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, a $17.9 million pier upgrading at Florida's Mayport Naval Station, and a $16 million railroad project at Fort Carson, Colo.

In explaining which proposals got the ax, White House officials said they sought out those that were not in the president's budget request and those that had yet to be designed.