AskDefine | Define impoundment

Dictionary Definition

impoundment n : placing private property in the custody of an officer of the law [syn: impounding, internment, poundage]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The act of impounding
  2. The state of being impounded

Extensive Definition

Impoundment is the refusal of presidents of the United States to spend money that has been appropriated by the United States Congress. All of the presidents up to Richard Nixon have used this power, which is regarded as inherent to the office. President Thomas Jefferson first used the power of impoundment in 1801. He refused to spend appropriated funds when he impounded $50,000 for United States Navy gunboats. He said in 1803 that "[t]he sum of fifty thousand dollars appropriated by Congress for providing gun boats remains unexpended. The favorable and peaceable turn of affairs on the Mississippi rendered an immediate execution of that law unnecessary." In keeping with his efforts to reduce the size of the debt, he left the funds for the ships unspent for over a year.
President Nixon used the power of impoundment much more than previous Presidents. In response, Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which forbids impoundment. Instead, the president may propose the rescinding of specific funds, but that rescission must be approved by both the House of Representatives and Senate within 45 days. In effect, this has removed the impoundment power, since Congress is not required to vote on the rescission and has ignored the vast majority of presidential requests.
In recent years, some citizens and politicians, including most presidents, have called for a line item veto to strengthen the rescission power and force Congress to vote on the disputed appropriation.



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