The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency

By Robert J. Spitzer | Go to book overview

2
Evolution of the Veto Power

Naturally the veto power did not escape the early talent of Americans for conjuring up constitutional limitations out of thin air.

Edward S. Corwin ( 1957)

As with virtually every power enumerated in the Constitution, the veto power evolved over time as experimentation, circumstance, and cumulative precedent combined to give the power its actual shape, especially as to its frequency, and other conditions of use. The purpose of this chapter is to explore how the parameters and perceptions of the veto power changed, in particular as they relate to the presidency itself. Exercise of the veto power contributed to an expansion of presidential power, particularly over the legislative realm, and this change occurred primarily in noncrisis, domestic circumstances. (In times of crisis, normal powers such as the veto recede in importance as the country [including the Congress] looks to the president for leadership and is willing to accept his greater use of power.) The veto affects the presidency primarily in the domestic arena since the veto power comes into play with Congress and is not a power directly related to the conduct of foreign affairs (aside from the presidential opportunity to veto bills having to do with foreign relations). The president's greater influence over foreign policy ( Wildavsky, 1966) infers that vetoes are less likely in this area in any case.

Although use of the veto has expanded the presidency, the delicate politics of that power are demonstrated by the fact that vigorous use of the veto has been politically detrimental to the presidents involved. With two exceptions, every president who relied significantly on the veto (thus defending and often extending the accepted use of the power) suffered politically. They were casualties in the struggle to

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The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - The Creation of the Veto 1
  • 2 - Evolution of the Veto Power 25
  • 3 - The Modern Veto 71
  • 4 - The Pocket Veto 105
  • 5 - The Item Veto Controversy 121
  • 6 - Conclusion 143
  • Appendix 147
  • Notes 153
  • References 159
  • About the Author 173
  • Index 175
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