The Presidential Veto and Congressional Procedure

Order Code 98-156 GOV Updated January 29, 2001 CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web The Presidential Veto and Congressional Procedure Gary L. Galemore Analyst in American National Government Government and Finance Division Summary Vetoes cast by the President represent a rejection of the will and intent of the majority in Congress as expressed in legislation. Presidential vetoes, and veto overrides, are often the reason for, or a reflection of, serious conflict between Congress and the President. The threat of a presidential veto can prompt the modification of bills moving through the legislative process. When appropriations measures are vetoed and Congress and the President cannot come to an agreement, the result can be the closure of federal agencies and the shutdown of federal programs and services. Historically, 1,484 bills have been vetoed by Presidents, while another 1,066 have experienced a “pocket” veto. Only 7.2%, or 106, of the 1,484 regular vetoes have been overridden by Congress. If pocket vetoes are included with regular vetoes, Congress has overturned only 4.2% of all presidential vetoes. see CRS Report 98-157, Congressional Overrides of Presidential Vetoes, CRS Report 98-148, Presidential Vetoes, 1789Present: A Summary Overview, and CRS Report 98-147, President Clinton’s Vetoes. All veto reports are updated regularly. Veto Process When presented with legislation passed by both houses of Congress, the President may sign it into law within the 10-day period prescribed in the Constitution (Article I, Section 7), let it become law without his signature, or veto the bill. All bills and joint resolutions, except those proposing amendments to the Constitution, require the President’s approval before they become law. Amendments to the Constitution, which require a two-thirds vote of approval in each chamber, are sent directly to the states for ratification. When Congress is in session, the President must exercise his veto within the prescribed 10-day period and return the rejected bill to Congress with the reasons for his veto. If the President neither signs nor vetoes legislation sent to him, it will become law Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CRS-2 without his signature. If, however, Congress has adjourned, preventing the return of a bill, the President may withhold his signature, with the result that the bill neither becomes law nor is returned to Congress for further action. This latter practice is known as a “pocket veto.” Moreover, unlike the situation when a vetoed bill is returned, Congress does not have the opportunity or constitutional authority to override. (Only 19 states grant their governors pocket veto authority.) Congressional Procedure Congressional procedure for reconsidering vetoed legislation is similar in both the House and Senate. Congressional action on a vetoed measure begins when the President returns the bill to the chamber of origin along with his objections in the form of a veto message. Once the vetoed legislation has been received by the originating chamber, that house is constitutionally required “to reconsider” the vetoed bill. The Constitution is silent, however, on the definition of “reconsideration.” Procedure and tradition govern the treatment of vetoed bills returned by the President. On receipt of the vetoed bill, the President’s message is read into the journal of the receiving house. After entering the message into the journal, the House of Representatives or the Senate complies with the constitutional requirement “to reconsider” by laying the measure on the table (essentially killing it), referring the bill back to committee, postponing consideration to a certain day, or immediately voting on reconsideration (vote on override). Action by both the House and the Senate is mandated. A two-thirds majority vote by Members present (provided there is a quorum), and not of those elected, is required to override a presidential veto. When one house fails to override, the other house will not attempt to override, even if the votes are present to succeed. Senate or House of Representatives action on a veto may be taken at any time during a Congress in which the veto is received. Most often, however, if a vote or other action is to occur, it will take place within a week or two of the veto’s being cast. CRS-3 1. Presidential Vetoes, 1789-Present President Congresses coincident with terms Regular vetoes Pocket vetoes 2 Total vetoes Vetoes overridden 2 — Washington 1, 2, 3, 4 Adams 5, 6 — — — — Jefferson 7, 8, 9, 10 — — — — Madison 11, 12, 13, 14 5 2 7 — Monroe 15, 16, 17, 18 1 — 1 — J.Q. Adams 19, 20 — — — — Jackson 21, 22, 23, 24 5 7 12 — Van Buren 25, 26 — 1 1 — W.H. Harrison 27 — — — — Tyler 27, 28 6 4 10 1 Polk 29, 30 2 1 3 — Taylor 31 — — — — Fillmore 31, 32 — — — — Pierce 33, 34 9 — 9 5 Buchanan 35, 36 4 3 7 — Lincoln 37, 38, 39 2 5 7 — A. Johnson 39, 40 21 8 29 15 Grant 41, 42, 43, 44 45 48 93 4 Hayes 45, 46 12 1 13 1 Garfield 47 — — — — Arthur 47, 48 4 8 12 1 Cleveland 49, 50 304 110 414 2 B. Harrison 51, 52 19 25 44 1 Cleveland 53, 54 42 128 170 5 McKinley 55, 56, 57 6 36 42 — T. Roosevelt 57, 58, 59, 60 42 40 82 1 W. H. Taft 61, 62 30 9 39 1 Wilson 63, 64, 65, 66 33 11 44 6 CRS-4 President Congresses coincident with terms Regular vetoes Pocket vetoes Total vetoes Vetoes overridden Harding 67 5 1 6 — Coolidge 68, 69, 70 20 30 50 4 Hoover 71, 72 21 16 37 3 F.D. Roosevelt 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79 372 263 635 9 Truman 79, 80, 81, 82 180 70 250 12 Eisenhower 83, 84, 85, 86 73 108 181 2 Kennedy 87, 88 12 9 21 — L.B. Johnson 88, 89, 90 16 14 30 — Nixon 91, 92, 93 26 17 43 7 Ford 93, 94 48 18 66 12 Carter 95, 96 13 18 31 2 Reagan 97, 98, 99, 100 39 39 78 9 Bush1 101, 102 29 15 44 1 Clinton 103, 104, 105, 106 36 0 36 2 1,484 1,066 2,550 106 TOTAL Source: U.S. Congress, Secretary of the Senate, Presidential Vetoes, 1989-1996 (Washington: GPO, 1992), 12 pp. S. Pub. 105-22. U.S. Congress, Secretary of the Senate, Presidential Vetoes, 1789-1988 (Washington: GPO, 1992), 595 pp. S. Pub. 102-12. 1 President Bush attempted to pocket veto 2 bills during intrasession recess periods. Congress considered the two bills enacted into law because of the President’s failure to return the legislation. The bills are not counted in this table. CRS-5 References Robert J. Spitzer, The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988). U.S. Congress, House Parliamentarian, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States One Hundred Fourth Congress, H. Doc. No. 103-342, 103rd Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1995), see Sec. 108, consideration of a vetoed bill in the House, pp. 50-51. CRS Reports CRS Report 98-157. Congressional Overrides of Presidential Vetoes, by Gary L. Galemore. CRS Report 98-148. Presidential Vetoes, 1789-Present: A Summary Overview, by Gary L. Galemore. CRS Report 98-147. President Clinton’s Vetoes, by Gary L. Galemore.