Each week, The Spokesman-Review examines one question from the Naturalization Test immigrants must pass to become United States citizens.
Today’s question: Who vetoes bills?
In drafting the Constitution, the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure no branch of government became too powerful. The legislative branch creates laws and manages the government’s purse strings, and the judicial branch rules on legislation. In aligning with their vision of checks and balances, the president has the power to evaluate legislation passed by Congress.
When Congress passes a bill, the president has a choice: to sign it into law or veto it. Once bills reach the president’s desk, the president has 10 days to take action before it automatically becomes law.
President Joe Biden is more than halfway through his term and has yet to uncap the veto pen. That’s not to say he won’t; in his State of the Union speech earlier this month, Biden referenced topics that would lead him to exercise this power.
“Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it,” Biden said.
The controversial 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned precedent set in Roe v. Wade, removing constitutional protection of abortion. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives could pass a national abortion ban if it voted along party lines, but it wouldn’t ever make it to Biden’s desk to veto since the bill would have no chance of passing the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
Also on Biden’s no-tolerance list is repealing the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which, among other things, allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with manufacturers and limits recipients’ out-of-pocket expenses to $2,000.
“If you try to do anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it,” Biden said, prompting Republican lawmakers to shout at him midspeech.
Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, many Republican members of Congress expressed desires to repeal the act. Experts said it’s unlikely they’ll accomplish this, Biden’s veto threat notwithstanding, as many Republicans and their constituents support some aspects of the act.
If Biden doesn’t veto anything during his term, it would be unusual, though not unprecedented. Of the 45 previous presidents, seven left office without exercising veto power. Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama vetoed nine and 11 bills, respectively. Each of them had one veto overridden by Congress.
When a president vetoes a bill, it returns unsigned to its originating chamber of Congress. With the ball back in Congress’ court, representatives can opt to alter the bill and try again or override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each house.
The 116th Congress overrode a Trump veto on the National Defense Authorization Act that approved funding for the U.S. Department of Defense. In Obama’s case, he tried to veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in 2016, but Congress mustered the necessary votes to override the veto. The act allowed Americans to sue other countries if they played a role in terrorism within the United States. Congress had the 9/11 attacks in mind while drafting this legislation, allowing victims to sue Saudi Arabia for the country’s suspected role in the attacks.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt vetoed 635 bills in his 12 years in office, more than any other president. Nine of those were overridden by Congress. President Grover Cleveland used the veto pen 414 times, the second most of any president. Congress overrode him only twice. These presidents are outliers; only five presidents hit the triple-digit mark for vetoes.