Statement by the President Upon Signing the Omnibus Rivers and Harbors Bill.
I HAVE today signed S. 2300--the omnibus rivers and harbors bill.
In so doing, I want to point out clearly and strongly that I cannot abide by one provision of the bill which flies in the face of the Constitution.
S. 2300 authorizes the construction of water resource projects totaling almost $2 billion.
These projects are needed.
They will bring economic vitality to almost every region of America and thus strengthen our national economy.
They have had and will continue to have my full support--because I deeply believe in them.
However, I do not support and I do not plan to implement section 201(a) of this legislation.
To do so would make the President a partner in the abdication of a fundamental principle of our Government--the separation of powers prescribed by the United States Constitution.
Section 201(a) provides that, "No appropriation shall be made to construct, operate, or maintain any such project [certain water resource development projects] if such project has not been approved by resolutions adopted by the Committees on Public Works of the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively."
Twice this year I have vetoed bills containing similar language.
Those provisions, like this one, were repugnant to the Constitution. I have weighed this problem very carefully. My legal advisers tell me that insofar as our system of checks and balances is concerned, this bill would do to the executive branch what neither House of Congress would want.
It would dilute and diminish the authority and powers of the Presidency.
I believe the Senate would understand my point of view, if I tried to contend that the Senate had no right to advise and consent.
And the House would understand, I am sure, if I attempted to insist that revenue measures did not have to originate in the House.
This is not a personal matter, but I cannot stress too strongly the seriousness with which I view this particular section.
The people of this country did not elect me to this office to preside over its erosion. And I intend to turn over this office with all of its responsibilities and powers intact to the next man who sits in this chair.
So just as I would not want to infringe upon the power of the Senate or lessen the jurisdiction of the House or disregard the decisions of the Supreme Court, I do not want the legislative--through two committees--to encroach upon the responsibilities of the Presidency.
Absolute legal consistency would require that I veto what is otherwise a sound bill because of this one objectionable provision.
But, after counseling with legislative leaders, I have chosen not to veto, for these reasons:
--Unlike the bills earlier this year, section 201(a) permits, but does not require, the executive branch to use the objectionable procedure in order to carry out its responsibilities. Therefore, I believe that by refusing to use the procedure, by noting my objections to it, and by seeking its repeal in the next session of Congress, it is possible to approve the remainder of the bill without yielding to encroachment.
--A veto would have denied to the people of the various congressional districts the desirable benefits of the improvements provided by this legislation.
--And finally, I have the greatest respect for this Congress and for the tremendous accomplishments which it has realized. We have worked together for the common good of the greatest number of people. I think we have been successful.
For these reasons I have signed the bill into law.
But I repeat, again and again, that I do not intend to accept this infringement upon the office of the Presidency.
The section containing the objectionable provision is a grant of authority and does not require any action to be taken. The Senate and the House were divided as to the legal interpretation of the provision.
One point is dear: Enactment of the bill will not commit the executive branch to participate in the procedure to which I have objected. And as soon as the Congress convenes again, I will request it to repeal the provision.
In the meantime, I have instructed the Secretary of the Army to refrain from exercising the authority which section 201(a) attempts to vest in him.
Note: As enacted, the omnibus rivers and harbors bill (S. 2300) is Public Law 89-298 (79 Stat. 1073).
The President referred to earlier vetoes of the Northwest disaster relief bill (vetoed June 5, Congressional Record, June 7, p. 12216), and of the military authorization bill (vetoed August 21, Item 440).
The statement was released at Austin, Tex.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Omnibus Rivers and Harbors Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241161