In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 500 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: everything you need to know about presidential vetoes. This is The Two Minute Drill for February 13, 2015.
On Feb. 11, the House of Representatives passed a bill to force approval of the long-pending Keystone XL pipeline. The bill passed by 270-152, with only one Republican voting against it and 29 Democrats for it, and marked the 11th time the House has voted to approve Keystone XL. The bill is the same version that the Senate approved on Jan. 29, meaning that its next destination is the desk of President Obama.
Despite the measure’s approval in the Republican-controlled Congress, it is destined for a presidential veto, as the White House has repeatedly said that President Barack Obama will not sign it into law. Here’s everything you need to know about Presidential vetoes.
The Explanation (500 or Bust)
The word “veto,” which comes from the Latin “I forbid,” does not appear in the Constitution, but the framers put the power in Article 1, Section 7 as a check on the legislative process. When Congress passes a bill, the President must sign the act into law within a 10-day period (excluding Sundays), let it become law without his signature, or veto it. The Constitution states that, when the President vetoes an act, “he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated.” This type of action is called a “regular” or “return” veto. However, if Congress has adjourned within the 10-day period after presentation of the act to the President – thereby preventing the return of the bill to Congress – the President may simply withhold his signature, and the act does not become law. This type of action is called a “pocket” veto.
The only way for Congress to override a pocket veto is to reintroduce the legislation as a new bill, pass it through both houses, and present it to the President again for his signature. On the other hand, Congress may override a regular veto without introducing new legislation.
Pursuant to Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, when the President exercises a “regular” veto, he returns it to the chamber whence it originated, and the chamber enters the message of the President detailing the reasons for his refused assent into its Journal and then proceeds to “reconsider” the bill. House and Senate procedural rules govern the reconsideration process because the Constitution does not state exactly how Congress should reconsider a vetoed bill. Neither house is under any obligation – constitutional, legal, procedural, or otherwise – to schedule a veto override vote, and it is not unusual for Congress to make no effort to override a veto if congressional leaders do not believe they have sufficient votes. Overriding a presidential veto, however, requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House.
Woodrow Wilson called the veto the president’s “most formidable prerogative.” As Table 1 below shows, 37 out of 44 Presidents have exercised their veto authority since 1789. Of that number, 1,498 (58.4%) were regular vetoes and 1,066 (41.6%) were pocket vetoes. Congress has overridden 110 (7.3%) of the 1,498 regular vetoes. This percentage, however, is skewed downward by the enormous amount of vetoes in administrations prior to the 87th Congress (which began in 1961). For example, F.D. Roosevelt exercised 635 vetoes (372 regular; 263 pocket) and Grover Cleveland exercised 930 vetoes (346 regular; 584 pocket). If one counts only the regular vetoes since 1961, one finds 233 vetoes and 37 overridden (15.9%).
George W. Bush (2001-2009) was the first president since John Quincy Adams to serve a full term without a veto. And no president since Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) has served two terms without vetoing a bill. Barack Obama has vetoed just two bills in six years, but more are on the way.
Word Count: 492
The Five Best Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles we read this week:
- Dear John. “[I]n my heart, I know it it time for someone else.” On Tuesday, Jon Stewart announced that he would step down from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” after more than 16 years as its anchor. “Humor is a form of relief. That relief restores us, and becomes a form of strength. Stewart’s work on the show has been so central, so essential, that it’s hard to imagine American political and comedic culture without it.” That may be the case. But it’s worth noting that when we refer to Stewart, we’re also referring to a team of writers and producers who have been remarkably productive over nearly 17 years. The show will go on.
- Fox News Sued. From the AP: “Paris City Council authorized Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Wednesday to sue U.S. broadcaster Fox News for reporting there are ‘no-go zones’ in the French capital where non-Muslims and police fear to venture. City officials voted to file a lawsuit at a French court for defamation regarding comments on Fox News and a map it broadcast with eight such so-called off-limits areas circled in red. The report came when Paris was on high alert after attacks by Islamic radicals last month.”
- Hate Crime. “It was execution style, a bullet in every head. This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt.” The father of one of the three students killed in a triple homicide in Chapel Hill explains why the killing was clearly a hate crime.
- Up in Smoke. “In addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, the researchers found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco.” From The New York Times: Smoking’s Toll on Health Is Even Worse Than Previously Thought, a Study Finds.
- It’s Called Marriage. Federal courts have cleared the way for same-sex marriage in Alabama. But many judges are refusing to issue marriage licenses after an order from the state’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore. The battle turned another page on Thursday, when a federal judge ordered a state official to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. You might recognize Moore’s name. When he was a circuit judge in Gadsden, Ala., Moore engaged in prayer before sessions. Even after a higher court ruled that his behavior was unconstitutional, he defied the order. And in 2004, Moore was ousted during his first sting as the state’s chief justice after he refused to move a 5,300-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments he had installed in the rotunda of the judicial building.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week examined the Republican “alternative” to Obamacare. Read the Column for February 10, 2015 – Can We Stop Pretending That Republicans Care about Health Care Reform.