The Modern Veto
Among the substantial objections to the
great powers of the president, that of his
negative upon the laws, is one of the
most inconsiderable. . . . For, if he be a
bold enterprising fellow, there is little fear
of his ever having to exercise it. . . .
[I]f, however, I say, he should not be a
man of an enterprising spirit, in that case
he will be a minion of the aristocratics,
doing according to their will and
pleasure, and confirming every law they
may think proper to make.
see Storing ( 1981)
Students of the presidency often segment the institution into historical eras to denote important changes in structure and power. Yet such segmentation ought not to hide the simple, overriding reality that the current presidency is the logical, even inexorable extension of its own past history. One need only trace the development of the presidential veto to see how the antecedents and development of the power led to its contemporary form.
A logical entry to consideration of the modern veto begins with a summary examination of the records of our first thirty-nine presidents. Table 3.1 offers a version of the summary most often reprinted in textbooks on the presidency, though it also includes a calculation of vetoes per year for each president. By itself, this information reveals