What is a Presidential Veto? - Definition, Override & Examples

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  • 0:01 Defintion
  • 0:57 Types of Presidential Vetoes
  • 2:09 Veto Overrides
  • 3:08 Example
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson will cover one of the president's most important powers: the presidential veto. There will be a short quiz to check your understanding following the lesson.


If you were to plan a big event, say a surprise birthday party, there would be many decisions you would likely have to make. Things such as the venue, invitees, food, and music may all be elements of the party you have to choose. Chances are that during the planning process, other people might offer suggestions on things that you should select. However, since you are in charge of organizing the party, you have the right to say no to any of the suggestions offered. This ability to say no is similar to the power that the president of the United States has when Congress suggests a proposal of a law that they would like him to sign.

A presidential veto is the power of the president of the United States to reject a decision or proposal made by Congress. When a president says no and vetoes a proposal, it is sent back to Congress. Furthermore, a president also has another sneakier way he can veto a proposal.

Types of presidential Vetoes

The most common way for the president to veto a bill is for him to outright veto the proposal and send it back to Congress with a veto message attached. A veto message is an explanation as to why the president vetoed the proposal.

There is a second way that a president can veto a proposal called a pocket veto. Say a president refuses to sign a bill but doesn't reject it outright, and Congress adjourns, or takes a break, from its law-making cycle. Within ten working days after the proposal has been submitted to the president, the proposal will be killed for that session of Congress.

An easier way to understand this concept using our birthday party example would be if a banquet hall gives you a quote on how much it will cost to have your birthday party at their venue. You consider the price but are still not sure if it's the right place for your party, and in the meantime, you look for other venues. However, when you call the original venue back to get some additional information, you are told that the owner has gone on vacation until past your party date. Since the owner is not there, you can't sign an agreement with that venue for the party, so the quote is no longer valid.

Veto Overrides

Just because a president vetoes a bill proposal doesn't mean that Congress is left without options. In fact, one of the powers Congress has is the ability to override, or overturn, a president's veto. It is an important power to have because it makes sure that the president uses his veto powers responsibly. Lack of action from the president may also result in a bill being passed if Congress remains in session.

There are three options for Congress after a bill has been vetoed or refused to be signed:

  1. Congress has the option to rewrite the bill, repass it, and send a revised version back to the president.
  2. Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds roll-call vote of the members present in both the House and the Senate.
  3. If a bill is not sent back to Congress after ten congressional working days, it becomes law without the president's signature.

U.S. Veto History (1789-2014)
Regular Vetoes 1,498
Pocket Vetoes 1,066
Total Vetoes 2,564
Vetoes Overridden 110

Source: United States Senate

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