In popular vote loser Donald Trump’s confused and angry ramblings Friday, announcing that despite really wanting “to do the veto” he would sign the omnibus spending bill, Trump warned that he would never again sign a bill like this, and that Congress was going to have to give him the line-item veto so he could take out all the stuff he doesn’t like. Never mind that the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that the line-item veto was unconstitutional. Who would expect Trump to know or understand that?
No one, right? But after Trump blurted that out, you’d expect someone in the White House to communicate to the occupant of the Oval Office and to his surrogates going out to spread his message this weekend not to say that again. Because it makes them sound stupid. Cue Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Mnuchin was tasked with defending the president’s signing Friday of a $1.3 trillion spending bill, to the scorn of many on the far right. Asked by host Chris Wallace what the president would do if congressional Republicans sent Trump another spending bill of this size later this year, Mnuchin repeated a suggestion that President Trump made Friday: Congress should give him the power of “line-item veto,” i.e. the ability to veto portions of the bill without vetoing the whole.
The problem? As Wallace pointed out, “that’s been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, sir.”
Wallace is correct: The Supreme Court ruled the line-item veto unconstitutional in 1998. But instead of conceding his mistake, Mnuchin dug himself in deeper: “Well, again, Congress could pass a rule, okay, that allows them to do it.” When Wallace pointed out that “No, no, sir, it would be a constitutional amendment,” Mnuchin stammered, “Chris, we don’t need to get into a debate in terms of — there’s different ways of doing this” and moved on.
It’s really bad enough that Trump doesn’t understand how government works, but you’d expect the people around him to recognize that deficiency and do what they could to correct it. Clearly, we all expect wrongly.