1. An appropriation bill is one the primary and specific aim of
which is to make appropriations of money from the public treasury.
P. 299 U. S.
2. The bill which became Act 4051, Laws of the Philippines
(Retirement Gratuity Law), provided for the payment of retirement
gratuities to officers and employees of the Insular Government who
were retired as a result of the reorganization or reduction in
personnel thereof. The provisions of the bill dealt largely with
matters relating to the right to, and the amount of, the gratuity.
Section 10 provided for an appropriation of funds from the public
treasury for carrying out the purposes of the Act. Section 7 made
eligible for the gratuity justices of the peace who, under the
provisions of another Act, were required to relinquish office in
the Governor General was without authority to
veto § 7 of the bill under § 19 of the Organic Act, which permits a
veto of part of a bill only in the case of an "item of an
appropriation bill." P. 299 U. S.
3. This conclusion is not affected by a clause in the Gratuity
Law declaring that, if any of its provisions be disapproved by the
Governor General or be held invalid, other provisions shall not be
affected thereby. P. 299 U. S.
4. The title of an Act may be resorted to as an aid to its
meaning in cases of doubt. P. 299 U. S.
Certiorari to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of the the
Philippines which affirmed a decision of the trial court dismissing
upon demurrer a petition for a writ of mandamus.
Page 299 U. S. 411
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
This suit was brought by petitioner against respondents in the
Court of First Instance of Manila, for a writ of mandamus
commanding respondents to approve and order payment of a gratuity
awarded to him by § 7 of the Retirement Gratuity Law (Act 4051,
Laws of the Philippines), notwithstanding the veto of that section
by the Governor-General. The Court of First Instance, upon
respondents' demurrer, dismissed the action. Upon appeal, the
Supreme Court of the the Philippines affirmed that decision,
holding that the veto by the Governor-General of § 7 was authorized
by § 19 of the Organic Act of August 29, 1916, 39 Stat. 545, 551.
Because of the importance of the question, we granted
The Retirement Gratuity Law contains twelve sections. It is
"An Act to provide for the payment of retirement gratuities to
officers and employees of the Insular Government retired from the
service as a result of the reorganization or reduction of personnel
thereof, including the justices of the peace who must relinquish
office in accordance with the provisions of Act numbered
Thirty-eight Hundred and Ninety-nine, and for other purposes."
Section 1 classifies the officers and employees, separated or
retired from the service, who shall be entitled to a gratuity, and
provides a method for ascertaining the amount. Section 2 accords
preferences in the case of certain officers and employees; § 3
fixes the basis for the computation of the gratuity; § 4 allows an
officer or employee to choose between the gratuity granted by the
Page 299 U. S. 412
gratuities conferred by other acts; § 5 provides for succession
in respect of unpaid gratuities in case of death, and § 6
authorizes a conditional reappointment of persons separated or
retired under the act.
Section 8 -- passing for the present § 7 -- abolishes the
offices and positions vacated by the separation or retirement of
officers and employees, with certain exceptions. Section 9 excepts
from the benefits of the act designated officers and employees.
Section 10 provides:
"The necessary sum to carry out the purposes of this Act is
hereby appropriated out of any funds in the Insular Treasury not
Section 11 fixes the effective date of the act, and § 12
provides that, if any provision of the act be disapproved by the
Governor-General or be held unconstitutional or invalid by a
competent court, none of the other sections or provisions of the
act shall be affected thereby.
The Governor-General returned the act with the indorsement,
"Approved, § 7 excepted, February 21, 1933." Section 7, thus
"The Justices of the Peace who must relinquish office during the
year nineteen hundred and thirty-three in accordance with the
provisions of Act Numbered Thirty-eight hundred and ninety-nine,
shall also be entitled to the gratuities provided for in this
Section 19 of the Organic Act, supra,
confers upon the
Governor-General the usual and general veto power. That is to say,
it authorizes him, if he does not approve a bill or joint
resolution passed by both houses of the Legislature, to "return it
with his objections to that house in which it shall have
originated;" and it then can become law only if upon
reconsideration two-thirds of the members elected to each house
shall agree to pass it. This general power requires the veto to
include the whole bill. But the section contains an exception,
"The Governor General shall have the power to veto any
particular item or items of an appropriation bill, but
Page 299 U. S. 413
the veto shall not affect the item or items to which he does not
This exceptional power, it will be seen, is limited to
appropriation bills; any other kind of legislation being controlled
by the general rule. And its exercise is restricted to the
disapproval of a particular item or particular items of such a
bill. The precise question for consideration therefore is -- did
the bill which became Act 4051 constitute an appropriation bill,
and, if so, was § 7, within the meaning of the foregoing provision
of the Organic Act, an item of such bill?
It first is to be observed that the title of the act in no wise
suggests that what follows is an appropriation bill, and an
examination of the act itself discloses that, with the exception of
§ 10, the bill itself proposed only general legislation.
Eliminating § 10, the remaining eleven sections could stand as a
generic act of legislation, leaving the specific matter of
appropriation to be dealt with by later enactment. The term
"appropriation act" obviously would not include an act of general
legislation, and a bill proposing such an act is not converted into
an appropriation bill simply because it has had engrafted upon it a
section making an appropriation. An appropriation bill is one the
primary and specific aim of which is to make appropriations of
money from the public treasury. To say otherwise would be to
confuse an appropriation bill proposing sundry appropriations of
money with a bill proposing sundry provisions of general law and
carrying an appropriation as an incident. The Supreme Court of
Texas, in Fulmore v. Lane,
104 Tex. 499, 512, 140 S.W.
405, 412, 1082, clearly pointed out the distinction between the
veto power in respect of a bill in the general sense and an
appropriation bill. "Nowhere in the Constitution," the court
"is the authority given the Governor to approve in part and
disapprove in part a bill. The only additional authority to
disapproving a bill in whole is
Page 299 U. S. 414
that given to object to an item or items, where a bill contains
several items of appropriation. It follows conclusively that, where
the veto power is attempted to be exercised to object to a
paragraph or portion of a bill other than an item or items, or to
language qualifying an appropriation or directing the method of its
uses, he exceeds the constitutional authority vested in him, and
his objection to such paragraph, or portion of a bill, or language
qualifying an appropriation, or directing the method of its use,
If the Governor-General had power under the foregoing clause of
§ 19 of the Organic Act to veto § 7 of the gratuities bill, he had
like power to veto § 2, granting preferences to certain classes of
officers and employees, or § 4, allowing a choice between the
gratuity granted by the act under review and a gratuity granted by
some other act, or § 5, according a right of succession to unpaid
gratuities in case of death; or § 6, providing for conditional
reappointment of persons separated or retired under the act; or to
veto as many of them as he saw fit. No more than any of the
designated sections does § 7 constitute an item of appropriation.
All of them are distinct parts of an act of general legislation.
The elimination of any by an exercise of the veto power, with the
going into effect of the remaining portions of the bill as a
consequence (if the veto be not overruled by a two-thirds vote of
each house), would result in the enactment of a general law in an
emasculated form not intended by the Legislature and against the
will, perhaps, of a majority of each house. This would not be
negation of an item or items of appropriation by veto but, in
effect, affirmative legislation by executive edict.
So, even if it be conceded that the bill could be characterized
as an appropriation bill, § 7 is not an "item" within the meaning
of § 19 of the Organic Act. An item of an appropriation bill
obviously means an item which, in itself, is a specific
appropriation of money, not some general
Page 299 U. S. 415
provision of law which happens to be put into an appropriation
bill. Provisions granting power to the executive to veto an item or
items of an appropriation bill are to be found, in various forms of
expression, in many of the state constitutions. Their object is to
safeguard the public treasury against the pernicious effect of what
is called "log-rolling" -- by which, in order to secure the
requisite majority to carry necessary and proper items of
appropriation, unnecessary or even indefensible items are sometimes
Section 73 of the Constitution of Mississippi provides that the
Governor may veto parts of any appropriation bill, and, although
"parts" would seem to be a word of wider application than the words
"item or items," the Supreme Court of that state, State v.
76 Miss. 158, 180, 181, 23 So. 643, 644, held that it
was not designed to enable the Governor to veto legislation carried
in an appropriation bill. "Section 73," the court said,
"was framed with a view of guarding against the evils of omnibus
appropriation bills securing unrighteous support from diverse
interests, and to enable the governor to approve and make law some
appropriations, and to put others to the test of securing a
two-thirds vote of the legislature as the condition of becoming
law. Thus viewed, § 73 is eminently wise, and will prove useful in
practice as corrective of an evil; but if a single bill, making one
whole of its constituent parts 'fitly joined together,' and all
necessary in legislative contemplation, may be dissevered by the
governor, and certain parts, torn from their connection, may be
approved, and thereby become law, while the other parts, unable to
secure a two-thirds vote in both houses, will not become law, we
shall have a condition of things never contemplated, and appalling
in its possible consequences."
The court below attached importance to § 12 of the act under
review, which provides that, if any section or provision
Page 299 U. S. 416
of the act be disapproved by the Governor-General
held to be unconstitutional or invalid by a competent court, none
of the other sections or provisions should be affected thereby.
That court viewed the italicized clause of this provision as
indicating that the Legislature intended the act "to be an
appropriation measure with various items," since it anticipated the
possibility of a partial veto. Just why this clause was inserted by
the Legislature does not appear. It may have been merely formal, or
inserted out of abundance of caution. Certainly it could not have
such force as to convert what plainly was a proffer of general
legislation into an appropriation bill. Although the title is only
a formal part of an act, and may be resorted to as an aid to the
meaning of a statute only in cases of doubt, Hadden v.
5 Wall. 107, 72 U. S. 110
the title of the present act, at least, has the effect of
overcoming such extrinsic aid as the clause relied upon otherwise
might afford to the construction of the act by the court below. If
the Philippine Legislature regarded the bill as an appropriation
bill, it is strange that the words by which that body described and
characterized its own proposed act afford no hint to that effect.
Compare Church of Holy Trinity v. United States,
143 U. S. 457
143 U. S.
We conclude that the Governor-General was without power to
separately veto § 7 of the Retirement Gratuities Act. The judgment
of the lower court must be reversed, and the cause remanded for
further proceedings not inconsistent with the foregoing
MR. JUSTICE STONE took no part in the consideration and decision
of this case.