Appropriations Bill for the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Letter to Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd.
Dear Senator Byrd:
I have decided that I will veto H.R. 7584, the State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations Act of 1980. A provision in this Act, the Helms-Collins amendment, would impose an unprecedented prohibition on the ability of the President of the United States and the Attorney General to use the Federal courts to ensure that our Constitution and laws are faithfully executed.
Throughout my Administration, I have been committed to the enhancement and strong enforcement of our civil rights laws. Such laws are the backbone of our commitment to equal justice. I cannot allow a law to be enacted which so impairs the government's ability to enforce our Constitution and civil rights acts.
I have often stated my belief that busing should only be used as a last resort in school desegregation cases. But busing is not the real issue here. The real issue is whether it is proper for the Congress to prevent the President from carrying out his constitutional responsibility to enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The precedent that would be established if this legislation became law is dangerous. It would effectively allow the Congress to tell a President that there are certain constitutional remedies that he cannot ask the courts to apply. If a President can be barred from going to the courts on this issue, a future Congress could by the same reasoning prevent a President from asking the courts to rule on the constitutionality of other matters upon which the President and the Congress disagree.
For any President to accept this precedent would permit a serious encroachment on the powers of this office. I have a responsibility to my successors and to the American people not to permit that encroachment to take place. I intend to discharge that responsibility to the best of my ability.
The purpose of this letter is to ensure that there is no doubt about my opposition to the objectionable provision in the State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations Act. My opposition also applies to the inclusion of such a provision in the Continuing Resolution.
I would of course prefer to avoid a veto of the Resolution. I recognize the difficulties such a veto could impose on critically important operations of the government and on the Congressional schedule. But I would be shirking my constitutional responsibilities if I allowed this unprecedented and unwarranted encroachment on Executive authority and responsibility to prevail.
[The Honorable Robert C. Byrd, Majority Leader, United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510]
Jimmy Carter, Appropriations Bill for the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Letter to Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251251