Archive for April 5th, 2009

President George Washington was presented with a bill concerning how representatives would be apportioned among the states.  When he rejected the bill on April 5, 1792, he was casting the first Presidential veto in the county’s brief history.

It would certainly not be the last.

In the 217 years since Washington’s first veto, the 42 subsequent Presidents have exercised their veto power on more than 2,500 occasions.  Most Commanders-In-Chief have used the veto power.  In fact, only 7 Presidents have not.  The last President to veto the veto?  James Garfield…of course, he only served 6 months of his term, so he didn’t get much of a chance.  Current President Barack Obama has also yet to veto any legislation, but he’s only a couple months into his 1st term, so there’s still plenty of time.

U.S. Presidents have two ways to veto a bill.  The first is to explicitly return the bill to Congress, which is the most common method and has been used in about 1,500 cases.

The President also has the option to neither sign the bill nor return it to Congress.  After ten days, the bill automatically becomes law.  But (and pay attention here), Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution states that if the Congressional session ends before the ten days has elapsed and the President does nothing with the bill, it is vetoed.

Called the “pocket veto” (the President effectively puts the bill in his pocket and ignores it), this veto is more powerful because it effectively kills the possibility of a Congressional override (the bill is in the President’s pocket).  There is some ambiguity concerning pocket vetoes, and they’ve been challenged in the past.  They’ve been exercised by various Presidents more than 1,000 times.

Remember Schoolhouse Rock?  Well, I do, and the famous “I’m Just a Bill” clip from Saturday mornings should give you low-down on bills becoming law and the whole veto process.

Some interesting facts about vetoes:

  • The President with the most vetoes?  Franklin Roosevelt (635 of them in his 3+ terms).
  • Among 2-term Presidents, Grover Cleveland exercised veto power 414 times.  A strong opponent of earmarks, he rejected spending bills left and right.  And only two of his vetoes were overridden.
  • President Roosevelt exercised 263 pocket vetoes.
  • Presidents that did not use their veto power:  Adams I, Jefferson, Adams II, Harrison, Taylor, Fillmore, and Garfield.

Recommended Reading:  Presidents – All You Need to Know – An outstanding compilation of facts about the first 43 Presidents.

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