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Law and Politics

Presidential Power: Veto

Explained

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WHAT IT IS

  • The presidential power to veto is granted to the president of the United States under Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution. [National Archives]

  • The power is also granted to governors. [National Governors Association]

  • A veto occurs when a president rejects a bill or refuses to sign legislation passed by both chambers of Congress. [The White House]

  • When rejected, the bill will not become law and is "returned" to the congressional chamber of origin. [U.S. Senate]

  • Presidents may veto a bill if he or she does not agree with the material or wants to push for a rewrite. [Legal Information Institute]

  • A veto can be apart of the legislative process. [The White House]
  • Once a bill passes both chambers of Congress, the president has 10 days to vet and determine the course of the bills action. [HISTORY]
  • The president then can: [The White House]
    • (1) sign the bill into law,
    • (2) veto the bill, or in rare instances
    • (3) pocket veto. 

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS: Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution outlines the presidential power as well as the legislative branch to override the president's action. [National Constitutional Center]

 

SOCIAL: If both chambers of Congress successfully pass legislation, why would the President deny a proposal drafted by representatives of the people?

THE HISTORY   

Origin

The veto power dates back to the first president George Washington in 1792.

 

James Madison used the executive branch’ first pocket veto in 1812.  [HISTORY

 

 

Overruled!

Presidents have vetoed about 2,500 bills. Despite a president’s rejection, Congress can override a veto with a 2/3rd majority vote from both houses. [HISTORY]

 

The first overrule came on March 3, 1845, when Congress joined against President John Tyler.  [U.S. House of Representatives]

 

Read the override procedure for both the House of Representatives and the Senate here.

 

 

Pocket veto

A pocket veto occurs if Congress "adjourns" or breaks during the 10-day presidential review window and the president vetos or takes no course of action on the bill during that time. [Britiannica]

 

Congress cannot override a pocket veto. [U.S. Senate]

THE IMPACT   

Too far

A line-item veto is when the president rejects or nullifies specific portions of a bill. 

 

The Supreme Court ruled line-item veto unconstitutional in 1998 Clinton v. City of New York. [Oyez]

 

Challenge came from New York City on the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, which gave the president the power to veto specific items from spending and tax bills. [The New York Times]

 

 

Grinding gears

If the president, the House of Representatives, and the Senate fail to agree on any proposed legislation, the federal government can fall into a gridlock where nothing gets passed.

 

 

Rare pushback

In the past, Congress has overridden a presidential veto less than 5% of the time. [HISTORY]

 

See all congressional overrides here

 

 

Rare use

Recent presidents have utilized their veto power more scarcely, with former President Barack Obama vetoing twice in his eight years. President Donald Trump has yet to veto. [U.S. House of Representatives]

 

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • March 2018: President Donald Trump asked Congress for the power to line-item veto regarding government spending proposals. [Vox]
  • The 2018 - 2019 government shutdown was fueled in part by President Trump threatening to veto any budget proposal that does not contain funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. [Bloomberg]
  • President Trump issued his first veto to protect funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Congress previously voted down the national emergency declared by President Trump. [Reuters

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • The word "veto" does not appear in the Constitution. Read more about interpreting the Constitution.

  • Read some of the United States’ most historically significant vetoes here

  • Read a legal opinion on line-item veto published by the Congressional Research Service here.

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This article is aligned with Purple for Democracy, a movement to support democracy through non-partisan, non-political content. 

 

Learn more about the Purple movement here

Key Vocabulary