By Michael Nollet
December 22, 2018
Yesterday, House speaker Paul Ryan announced that President Trump will veto any budget bill that does not contain funding for Trump’s border wall. The end of the year and the current session of Congress being so near, this raises the delicious possibility of Trump’s using a constitutional niche to kill the bill and bring the government into partial shutdown: the pocket veto.
A pocket veto causes a bill to fail to become law, if the president does not sign the bill and cannot return the bill to Congress within a ten-day period after its passage through Congress, because the Congress is no longer in session. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution states: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him [the president], the same shall be a Law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a Law” (emphasis provided).
Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were renowned for their use of pocket vetoes. The practice has gone out of fashion in modern times, as the Congress has adopted the practice of gaveling itself “into session” for two minutes and then going back into recess, which starts the ten-day clock all over again. That won’t happen after it adjourns for the year.