Friday, January 8, 2010

The Dodgy Dual Veto

The Huffington Post contains an interesting post by Political Scientist Robert Spitzer of SUNY Cortland who pens a letter to President Obama about Obama's first veto. According to Spitzer:

He continues:
"Here's the problem with your veto: instead of issuing a regular or return veto, your message was titled "Memorandum of Disapproval," indicating that this was a pocket veto. But your message then said this: "To leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed ... in addition to withholding my signature, I am also returning H.J.Res. 64" to the House. The problem is that your action creates doubt because it combines two mutually exclusive actions: a regular veto and a pocket veto. Even more troubling, the history behind this veto gambit - claiming the exercise of a non-return pocket veto while simultaneously returning the bill to Congress - is a presidential power grab designed to stretch the no-override pocket veto into an absolute veto power that could be used anytime Congress is not in session, giving the president the very power the Founders sought to deny the office."

As Spitzer points out, Obama is not the first president to us the "dodgy dual veto" (known officially as a "protective return pocket veto"). The practice dates back to the Ford administration where President Ford issued five such vetoes only to be challenged successfully in Federal court by Senator Edward Kennedy. President Bush 41 revived the protective return pocket veto and every one of his successors followed suit.

The dodgy dual veto is a wonderful example of how presidents, regardless of party or ideology, seek to expand the prerogatives of the office. It is also a reminder of why the American system has checks and balances built into it and the need for a vigorous Congress and judiciary to serve as a counter-balance to the executive branch as well as to each other.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Surprise Page Turner

Non-fiction books are rarely page turners. However, I spent most of my holiday break in the land of cheese reading a book I did not want to put down--Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.

The Washington Post's Barton Gellman produced a manuscript that is a well-balanced, well-researched, thoughtful examination of the impact of the most powerful vice president in American history: Richard Cheney. What is remarkable about the Cheney vice presidency is not how consequential he was, but rather how a figure so powerful operated largely from the shadows in order to game the system. Any student of the George W. Bush presidency or White House operations in general should read this book.

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