After I read the Sept. 5 news article “Puerto Rico projects among those losing money to wall,” it became clear to me that we have seen this movie before. Attempts by the executive branch to thwart the will of Congress are nothing new. President Trump is taking money from 127 military projects — diverting funds that have been specifically appropriated by Congress — to cover the costs of constructing his southern border wall.
Shortly after the enactment of the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, a bipartisan group of senators began legal proceedings to oppose a law that they knew to be fundamentally unconstitutional. In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the line-item veto legislation was unconstitutional (Clinton v. City of New York, 1998). The current efforts by the president to override the will of Congress in exercising its Article I “power of the purse” are much the same as what we saw in the mid-1990s. The difference is that back then, we saw Republican senators such as Mark Hatfield of Oregon willing to join with Democrats such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia to fight for the integrity of the Constitution and the authority of Congress, even if it meant opposing a president in their own party. Sadly, we don’t see that kind of courage today.
Tony Bullock, Washington
The writer was chief of staff
to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.