A presidential veto in the United States of America is the rejection of a bill passed by Congress (Parliament). This article provides a brief overview of procedures involved in vetoing a bill and the ways Congress can respond to a presidential veto.
The Veto Process
When a bill is passed by Congress (Parliament) in America, it is sent to the president for his signature. All bills and joint resolutions, except those proposing amendments to the Constitution, must be signed by the president before they become law. When presented with legislation passed by both houses of Congress, the president is constitutionally required to act on it in one of four ways: sign it into law within the 10-day period prescribed in the Constitution, issue a regular veto, let the bill become law without his signature or issue a “pocket” veto.
When Congress is in session, the president may, within the 10-day period, exercise a regular veto by sending the unsigned bill back to the chamber of Congress from which it originated along with a veto message stating his reasons for rejecting it.
The Pocket Veto
When Congress is adjourned, the president can reject a bill by simply refusing to sign it. This action is known as a “pocket veto,” coming from the analogy of the president simply putting the bill in his pocket and forgetting about it. Unlike a regular veto, Congress has neither the opportunity or constitutional authority to override a pocket veto.
Bill becomes law without president’s signature
When Congress is not adjourned, and the president fails to either sign or veto a bill sent to him by the end of the 10-day period, it becomes law without his signature.
How Congress responds to a Veto
When the President returns a bill to the chamber of Congress from which it came, along with his objections in the form of a veto message, that chamber is constitutionally required to “reconsider” the bill.
Overriding a Veto
Action by both the House and the Senate is required to override a presidential veto. A two-thirds, supermajority vote of the Members present is required to override a presidential veto. Should both houses of Congress successfully vote to override a presidential veto, the bill becomes law. According to the Congressional Research service, in over 200 years between the years 1789 to 2004, only 7% of regular presidential vetoes were overridden by Congress. While Congress can vote to override a presidential veto, causing the bill to become law without the president’s approval, this is rarely done. More often than not, the threat of presidential veto is sufficient motivation for Congress to modify the bill prior to its final passage.
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