The Presidential Veto

By Robert J. Spitzer

Subjects: Presidency, The
Series: SUNY series in Leadership Studies
Paperback : 9780887068034, 181 pages, August 1988
Hardcover : 9780887068027, 181 pages, September 1988

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Table of contents




1 The Creation of the Veto

Antecedents of the veto

The English tradition

The veto in America

The federal convention


2 Evolution of the Veto Power

The first vetoes

The Jacksonian veto

Harrison and the Tyler crisis

Polk and the maturing veto

The end of the veto controversy


3 The Modern Veto

A summary assessment

Empirical assessments

Central clearance and the enrolled bill process

Private bills and the veto

The veto in the hands of modern presidents

Two cases

The veto threat


4 The Pocket Veto

How the pocket veto works

What did the founders know, and when did they know it?

Evolution of the pocket veto

Persisting pocket veto ambiguities

Must presidents explain pocket vetoes?

When does the ten-day period begin?


5 The Item Veto Controversy



Would the founders have approved?

Evolution of the clamor for the item veto

The item veto and the budget process

Porkys, two?

The gubernatorial item veto as a model

The potency of existing veto powers

Other powers that mimic the item veto

What constitutes an item?

Conclusion: Things are seldom what they seem. . .

6 Conclusion

From monarch to plebiscitarian

The veto: Power and symbol




About the Author



This is the first modern study of the veto. In addition to tracing the genesis and historical evolution from Ancient Rome, through the ultimate inclusion in the Constitution, it also explores the veto's consequences for modern presidents. In doing so, Spitzer promotes a key argument about the relation between the veto power and the Presidency — namely, that the rise of the veto power, beginning with the first Chief Executive, is symptomatic of the rise of the strong modern Presidency, and has in fact been a major tool of Presidency-building.

A special and revealing irony of the veto power is seen in the finding that, despite its monarchical roots and anti-majoritarian nature, the veto has become a key vehicle for presidents to appeal directly to, and on behalf of, the people. Thus, the veto's utility for presidents arises not only as a power to use against Congress, but also as a symbolic, plebiscitary tool.

Robert J. Spitzer is Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at State University of New York College at Cortland. Author of The Presidency and Public Policy: The Four Arenas of Presidential Power and The Right to Life Movement and Third Party Politics, he is currently serving as a member of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution.


"This is a clearly presented, well documented, balanced analysis. The author offers a great deal of information about the growth and use of the presidential veto. It is also a very useful book because it brings together much material on a widely studied topic." — Morris S. Ogul

"This book is extremely well written. What I like most is the way the author explains the historical development of the veto power and makes it relevant to the present nature of the presidency. He presents enough detail to fully understand the context of developments, yet not so much detail as to bore the reader or lose sight of the main point he is making. The research is very thorough and the scholarship is sound. The book is interesting to read, and the author has a good sense of humor and a fine feeling for irony." — James P. Pfiffne