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A veto, or revisionary check is the procedure established under the Constitution by which the President refuses to approve a bill or joint resolution and thus prevents its enactment into law. A regular veto occurs when the President returns the legislation to the house in which it originated. The President usually returns a vetoed bill with a message indicating his reasons for rejecting the measure. The veto can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House.[1]

Veto Override

The process by which each chamber of Congress votes on a bill vetoed by the President. To pass a bill over the President's objections requires a two-thirds vote in each Chamber. Historically, Congress has overridden fewer than ten percent of all presidential vetoes.[2]

Item Veto

Authority to veto part rather than all of an appropriations act. The President does not now have item-veto authority. He must sign or veto the entire appropriations act. The item veto sometimes is referred to as a line-item veto.[3]

Supporters of a line-item veto hold that it would allow the president to act as a limit on government spending, and prevent the common practice of using appropriations bills to hold unpopular amendments that cannot then be voted down without rejecting the entire bill. Opponents claim that it would give the president excessive power, allowing him to deprive departments of funding at will without the approval of congress.

Pocket Veto

The Constitution grants the President 10 days to review a measure passed by the Congress. If the President has not signed the bill after 10 days, it becomes law without his signature.

The pocket veto occurs if the President does not sign a bill during the 10-day period and Congress adjourns during the 10-day period. In this case, the bill does not become law.[4]

Intent of the Framers

During the Constitutional Convention, the veto was routinely referred to as a 'revisionary power'[5].

The Veto was constructed not as an absolute veto, but rather with limits. Such as that Congress can override a veto, and that a President must state their objections in writing[6]. These limits would have been important in the minds of the Founders since the King of Britain was stripped of an absolute veto in 1689[7]. Further, as Elbridge Gerry explained in the final days of the Convention:

The primary object of the revisionary check of the President is not to protect the general interest, but to defend his own department.[8]


  1. [1] US Senate Reference
  2. [2] US Senate Reference
  3. [3] US Senate Reference
  4. [4] US Senate Reference
  5. Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention (1787).
  6. (1988) The Presidential Veto. New York: State University of New York Press, 18-19. ISBN 978-0887068027. 
  7. Presidential Defiance of "unconstitutional" Laws: Reviving the Royal Prerogative See description.
  8. Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention (September 12, 1787).