Pocket veto

Pocket veto

A pocket veto is a legislative maneuver in American federal lawmaking that allows the President to indirectly veto a bill. The U.S. Constitution requires the President to sign or veto any legislation placed on his desk within ten days (not including Sundays) while the United States Congress is in session. From the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 7 states:

"… If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law. "

If the President does not sign the bill within the required time period, the bill becomes law by default. However, the exception to this rule is if Congress s before the ten days have passed and the President has not yet signed the bill. In such a case, the bill does not become law; it is effectively, if not actually, vetoed. If the President does sign the bill, it becomes law. Ignoring legislation, or "putting a bill in one's pocket" until Congress adjourns is thus called a "pocket veto". Since Congress cannot vote while in adjournment, a pocket veto cannot be overridden (but see below). James Madison became the first president to use the pocket veto in 1812. [Fisher, Louis: [http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30909.pdf The Pocket Veto: Its Current Status] , Mar. 30, 2001.]

Mason's Manual says:

"When legislation is passed so late in the session that the session ends prior to the expiration of the time the governor is given to act on bills, the governor has the power to withhold action on the bill and let it die from failure to approve it. This is called the pocket veto." [cite parl|title=MAS|edition=2000|year=2000|pages=541]

Current controversy

Recent events have brought the legal status of the pocket veto back to the forefront of American politics.

In December 2007, President George W. Bush pushed the pocket veto into murky waters by claiming that he had pocket vetoed H.R. 1585, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008," [Memorandum of Disapproval, Dec 28, 2007 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071228-5.html] even though the House of Representatives had designated agents to receive presidential messages before adjourning. [Robert J. Spitzer, "Is Bush Inventing Another Constitutional Power?" History News Network, Jan. 7, 2008, http://hnn.us/articles/46161.html] The bill had been previously passed by veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate. If the President had chosen to veto the bill, he would have been required to return it to the house whence it originated, which, in this case, was the House of Representatives. The House then could have voted to override the veto, and the Senate could then do likewise. In the event that each house had voted by at least two-thirds majority to override the veto, the bill would become law. [The U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Clause 2 reads "Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law."]

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated: "Congress vigorously rejects any claim that the president has the authority to pocket-veto this legislation, and will treat any bill returned to the Congress as open to an override vote." A White House spokesperson has said: "A pocket veto, as you know, is essentially putting it in your pocket and not taking any action whatsoever. And when Congress — the House is out of session — in this case it’s our view that bill then would not become law."

Louis Fisher, a constitutional scholar at the Library of Congress indicated: "The administration would be on weak grounds in court because they would be insisting on what the Framers decidedly rejected: an absolute veto." [The Hill, "Democrats say Bush can't pocket veto defense bill", Jan 2nd, 2008 http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/democrats-say-bush-cant-pocket-veto-defense-bill-2008-01-02.html] By "absolute veto" Fisher was referring to the fact that a bill that has been pocket vetoed cannot be overridden. Instead, the bill must be reintroduced into both houses of Congress, and again passed by both houses, an effort which can be very difficult to achieve.

In the end, the House of Representatives did not attempt to override it. Instead, in January 2008, the House effectively killed H.R. 1585 by referring it to the Armed Services Committee. It then passed H.R. 4986, a bill nearly identical to H.R. 1585 but slightly modified to meet the President's objection, which subsequently became law. [GovTrack.us. H.R. 4986--110th Congress (2008): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, GovTrack.us (database of federal legislation) < [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-4986] > (accessed Sep 22, 2008) ]

This is not the first time that a President has attempted to pocket veto a bill despite the presence of agents to receive his veto message. Both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton made similar attempts. [Robert J. Spitzer, The Law: The 'Protective Return' Pocket Veto: Presidential Aggrandizement of Constitutional Power," Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 4, Dec. 2001, pp. 720-732.]

ee also

*List of United States presidential vetoes

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pocket veto — pock·et veto n: a veto of legislation that occurs indirectly when an executive refrains from signing the legislation and the adjournment of the legislature prevents its automatic enactment (as upon expiration of ten days) Merriam Webster’s… …   Law dictionary

  • Pocket veto — The retention by the President of the United States of a bill unsigned so that it does not become a law, in virtue of the following constitutional provision ( Const. Art. I., sec. 7, cl. 2): If any bill shall not be returned by the President… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pocket veto — ☆ pocket veto n. 1. the indirect veto by the President of the U.S. of a bill presented to him by Congress within ten days of its adjournment, by failing to sign and return the bill before Congress adjourns 2. any action similar to this in… …   English World dictionary

  • pocket veto — n a method used by the US President to stop a ↑bill (=proposal for a new law) . The President keeps the proposal without signing it until Congress is not working any more …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pocket veto — noun indirect veto of legislation by refusing to sign it • Hypernyms: ↑veto * * * noun, pl ⋯ toes [count] US : a method that the President can use to prevent a bill from becoming a law by not signing the bill before the session of Congress ends * …   Useful english dictionary

  • pocket-veto — /pok it vee toh/, v.t., pocket vetoed, pocket vetoing. to veto (a bill) by exercising a pocket veto. * * * …   Universalium

  • pocket veto — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms pocket veto : singular pocket veto plural pocket vetos a method that the US President can use to stop a bill from becoming law, in which they keep the bill without signing it until it is too late to sign it …   English dictionary

  • pocket-veto — /pok it vee toh/, v.t., pocket vetoed, pocket vetoing. to veto (a bill) by exercising a pocket veto …   Useful english dictionary

  • Pocket-Veto — Der Begriff Pocket Veto beschreibt ein legislatives Manöver in der Gesetzgebung der Vereinigten Staaten, bei dem der Präsident ein Veto gegen ein Gesetz einlegen kann, ohne dass dieses vom Kongress überstimmt werden kann. Die Verfassung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Pocket veto — Der Begriff Pocket Veto beschreibt ein legislatives Manöver in der Gesetzgebung der Vereinigten Staaten, bei dem der Präsident ein Veto gegen ein Gesetz einlegen kann, ohne dass dieses vom Kongress überstimmt werden kann. Die Verfassung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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