Thursday, January 3, 2008

Is That a Veto in Your Pocket?

There's an interesting new constitutional controversy over the pocket veto. When Congress passes a bill, they send it to the President, who has ten days to sign or veto the bill. If he vetoes the bill, it is sent back to Congress which can then vote to override with a two-thirds majority. If he neither signs nor vetoes the bill, and Congress is in session, the bill becomes law. If Congress is not in session and the President neither signs nor vetoes the bill, that's a pocket veto and it can't be overridden by Congress. In that case, the Congress must start again and repass new legislation.

The recent Defense authorization bill passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities. In order to prevent a pocket veto, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid kept the Senate in pro forma session during the holidays. President Bush claims that he pocket vetoed the bill since the House wasn't in session.

Louis Fisher, a scholar at the Congressional Research Service and a leading expert on separation of powers issues, seems to think that the Bush administration's argument doesn't hold much water.

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