98-157 GOV Updated July 27, 1998 CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web Congressional Overrides of Presidential Vetoes Gary L. Galemore Analyst in American National Government Government Division Summary The President’s veto authority is among his most significant tools in legislative dealings with Congress. It is effective not only in preventing the passage of legislation undesirable to the President, but also as a threat, sometimes forcing Congress to modify legislation before it is presented to the President. Students of executive-legislative relations suggest that Congress’s strength rests with passing statutes and the President’s in vetoing them. Illustrative of this point is the fact that Presidents have vetoed 1,471 bills and Congress has overridden only 105 of them. President William Clinton has vetoed 23 bills. Congress has overridden one of these vetoes. As a veto threat is carried out, Congress is faced with choices: letting the veto stand, the difficult task of overriding the veto, meeting the President’s objections and sending a new bill forward, or resubmitting the same provisions under a new bill number.1 In the case of vetoed appropriations bills, the result can be the closure of federal agencies and the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees, with the inevitable disruption of federal programs and services. Background Historically, the veto power granted the President in the Constitution has proven to be an effective tool for the Chief Executive in his dealings with Congress. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution provides, in effect, that a President needs the vote of only one more than one-third in either the House of Representatives or the Senate to sustain a veto. Congressional procedure and tradition, not the Constitution, have determined that a vote of two-thirds of either or both houses of Congress means a vote of two-thirds of 1 H.R. 1854 was vetoed October 3, 1995. See: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1996—Veto Message from the President of the United States (H. Doc. No. 104-122), in Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 141, Oct. 6, 1995, pp. H 9741-9742. H.R. 2492, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1996, identical to H.R. 1854, passed the House October 31, passed the Senate November 2, and was signed into law on November 19 (P.L. 104-53). Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CRS-2 those Members present and voting (provided there is a quorum) and not, as is the practice in some states, two-thirds of those elected. The Constitution states that, when the President vetoes a bill, “he shall return it with his objections to the House in which it shall have originated.” This type of veto is referred to as a regular or return veto. The returned veto then becomes a question of “high privilege,” or, in other words, takes precedence over other pending business before Congress. Neither house, however, is under any legal, constitutional, or procedural obligation to schedule an override vote attempt, but may do so anytime during a Congress. It is not unusual for Congress to make no effort to override a President’s veto if party leaders feel they do not have sufficient votes. In still other cases, vetoes have been challenged and sustained in one house, eliminating the need for a vote in the other chamber. Although a measure may have passed originally by a large majority vote in both Houses, a two-thirds majority of those present in each chamber is required to override the President’s veto. Prior to 1969, Congress overrode approximately 1 of every 18 (5.7%) regular vetoes. Since 1969, Congress has been more successful, overriding about 1 out of every 5 (18.3%) regular vetoes. See Table 1. Table 1. Vetoes Overridden, 1789-Present Regular Veto 2 Override — Regular Veto 19 Override 1 Adams — — Cleveland — — Jefferson — — (2nd term) 42 5 Madison 5 — McKinley 6 — Monroe 1 — T. Roosevelt 42 1 — — Taft 30 1 5 — Wilson 33 6 Van Buren — — Harding 5 — W.H. Harrison — — Coolidge 20 4 Tyler 6 1 Hoover 21 3 Polk 2 — F.D. Roosevelt 372 9 Taylor __ — Truman 180 12 Fillmore — — Eisenhower 73 2 Pierce 9 5 Kennedy 12 — Buchanan 4 — L.B. Johnson 16 — Lincoln 2 — Nixon 26 7 A. Johnson 21 15 Ford 48 12 Grant 45 4 Carter 13 2 Hayes 12 1 Reagan 39 9 Garfield — — Bush 29 1 4 1 Clinton 23 1 304 2 Totals 1471 105 President Washington J.Q. Adams Jackson Arthur Cleveland (1st term) President B. Harrison CRS-3 President Clinton’s Vetoes Of the 23 vetoes exercised by President Clinton, all have been regular vetoes, which have been returned to Congress and which are subject to congressional override votes. Table 2 provides information about the Clinton vetoes. Table 2. President Clinton’s Vetoes Bill Number Date of Veto Title Override Attempt H.R. 1158 06/07/95 Second Supplemental Appropriations and Rescissions Act for FY1995 No attempt. S. 21 08/11/95 Bosnia and Herzegovina Self-Defense Act of 1995 No attempt. H.R. 1854 10/03/95 Legislative Branch Appropriations for FY1996 No attempt. H.R. 2586 11/13/95 Increase in the Statutory Debt Limit No attempt. H.J.Res. 115 11/14/95 Second Continuing Resolution for FY1996 No attempt. H.R. 2491 12/06/95 Budget Reconciliation No attempt. H.R. 1977 12/18/95 Interior Appropriations for FY1996 House sustained 01/04/96 by 239-177. H.R. 2099 12/18/95 Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations for FY1996 No attempt. H.R. 2076 12/19/95 Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations for FY1995 House sustained 01/03/96 by 240-159. H.R. 1058 12/19/95 Securities Litigation Reform Act House overrode 12/20/95 by 319-100. Senate overrode 12/22/95 by 68-30. Public Law 104-67. H.R. 1530 12/28/95 Defense Authorizations for FY1996 House sustained 01/03/96 by 240-156. H.R. 4 01/09/96 Welfare Reform Act No attempt. H.R. 1833 04/10/96 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1995 House overrode 09/19/96 by 285-137. Senate sustained 09/26/96 by 57-41. H.R. 1561 04/12/96 American Overseas Interest Act of 1996 House sustained 04/30/96 by 234-188. H.R. 956 05/02/96 Common Sense Product Liability Legal Reform Act of 1996 House sustained 05/09/96 by 258-163. CRS-4 Bill Number Date of Veto Title Override Attempt H.R. 743 06/30/96 Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act of 1996 No attempt. H.R. 2909 10/02/96 Amends Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Act No attempt. H.R. 1469 06/09/97 Flood Relief Bill No attempt. H.R. 1122 10/10/97 Partial Birth Abortion House overrode 07/23/98 by 296-132 H.R. 2631 11/13/97 Disapproving cancellations No attempt. S. 1502 05/20/98 D.C. Student Vouchers No attempt. H.R. 2709 06/23/98 Iran sanctions bill No attempt H.R. 2646 07/21/98 Education Savings Account No attempt. References U.S. Congress, Secretary of the Senate, Presidential Vetoes, 1789-1988 (Washington: GP0, 1992), 595 pp. S. Pub. 102-12. U.S. Congress, Secretary of the Senate, Presidential Vetoes, 1989-1991 (Washington: GPO, 1992), 12 pp. S. Pub. 102-13. U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Vetoes of Legislative Branch Appropriations, by Gary L. Galemore, CRS Report 95-847 GOV (Washington: October 6, 1995), 3 pp. U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Veto Overrides by Congress, 1969-1988, by Gary L. Galemore, CRS Report 89-436 GOV (Washington: July 20, 1989), 39 pp. U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Presidential Veto and Congressional Procedure, by Gary L. Galemore, CRS Report 98-157 GOV (Washington: June 25, 1998), 5 pp. __ Presidential Vetoes, 1789-Present: A Summary Overview, by Gary L. Galemore, CRS report 98-148 GOV (Washington: June 25, 1998). 4 pp. __ President Clinton’s Vetoes, by Gary L. Galemore, CRS report 98-147 Gov (Washington: June 25, 1998). 3 pp.