July 18, 1984
In signing H.R. 5713 into law, I note that seven of its provisions purport to limit my authority, and the authority of the affected department or agency heads, to use funds otherwise appropriated by this bill, unless the Committees on Appropriations of both the House of Representatives and the Senate approve of those expenditures. Three of these provisions would purport to permit those committees to authorize the Administrator of NASA or the Administrator of the VA to exceed certain secondary limits on the amounts that may be spent on several specified activities, by using otherwise appropriated funds; a fourth would purport to allow those committees to authorize the Administrator of NASA to enter into certain leases or construction contracts that otherwise must be specified in an appropriations act. The appropriations made for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and section 409 of the general provisions applicable to all appropriations made by this bill, contain similar provisions.
The Attorney General has advised me that, under the Supreme Court's decision in INS v. Chadha, 103 S. Ct. 2764 (1983), Congress, including committees of Congress, may not be given power that has ``the purpose and effect of altering the legal rights, duties and relations of persons, including . . . Executive Branch officials . . . ,'' through procedures that bypass the constitutional requirements for valid legislative action. Thus, the provisions in this bill purporting to empower the Appropriations Committees to approve certain expenditures of funds absent participation by both Houses of Congress and the President are unconstitutional.
I fully recognize the interest of Congress and its committees in preserving oversight and accountability over the discretion Congress grants to the executive in such important areas as the obligation of appropriations. I do believe, however, that the time has come, with more than a year having passed since the Supreme Court's decision in Chadha, to make clear that legislation containing legislative veto devices that comes to me for my approval or disapproval will be implemented in a manner consistent with the Chadha decision. I strongly urge Congress to discontinue the inclusion of such devices in legislation, because doing so serves no constructive purpose after Chadha beyond introducing confusion and ambiguity into the process by which the executive's obligations are discharged.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 5713 is Public Law 98 - 371, approved July 18.