Veto: The president’s power to just say “no” – seldom used

Released: 
January 17, 2013

President Obama vetoed just two bills during his first term, the fewest of any president since Millard Fillmore.

The presidential veto is key to the federal system of checks and balances – allowing the president to kill legislation he finds objectionable, but still giving Congress final authority if it can muster the votes to override it.

President Obama vetoed just two bills during his first term in office. That’s the fewest since Millard Fillmore held office in the early 1850s. Fillmore did not exercise the veto power at all.

Franklin D. Roosevelt far outpaced other presidents in his use of the veto pen, even considering he served four terms. His 635 vetoes is a White House record. Among more recent office-holders, Ronald Reagan stands out with 78 vetoes on the books over two terms.

Challenging Congress with a veto can be risky. Andrew Johnson vetoed the 1866 civil rights bill granting rights to freed slaves. Not only did Congress override him, it impeached him.

Check out our infographic for more on the presidential veto. See “What Do Others Say?” for more views. Then add to the discussion below. Is the veto an effective counter to legislative power?