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CONNECTIONS: The counterfeit veto

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By Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019 Viewpoints 5

About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.

I despair of this White House. Perhaps they don’t look as if they know what they are doing, but it is far worse. Far worse: They know exactly what they are doing, and are content to mislead. Their goal is to create a media moment. It begins with constant comment: “The White House is readying a pen for the president.” After all, a veto is anticipated.

I heard but I did not see that there was a ceremony in which a pen was produced and used. For what?

It is a simple string of facts. There are seven steps: A bill is proposed in Congress, it is debated in committee, they write it up and both houses vote. When both houses vote in the affirmative, the bill is delivered to the White House for the president’s signature.

If the president signs it, the bill becomes law. That does require a pen. A veto does not. A veto is in fact and by definition the absence of a signature. If POTUS does not sign the bill, it is not law. It can be returned to Congress for an override—a two-thirds vote. Or Congress can decide to rewrite it in a way that might curry favor with the executive branch.

The first veto was executed by our first president. In 1792, Washington vetoed a bill that would have allowed more representatives in the House, with a disproportionate number coming from northern states. The veto is a significant part of the checks and balances granted early in the Constitution.

There are two kinds of veto: regular, when the president returns the bill to Congress unsigned; and pocket veto, when the president does not sign the bill and figuratively puts it in his pocket—that is, does not return it to Congress. In either case, there is nothing to sign and no need for a pen with which to do it. There was a president—Jackson, I think—who liked to write the word “veto” across the bill, but not his signature.

President Trump showing off what he said was his first veto.

Is that what Trump did? I don’t think so. I think what he did was create a ceremony because it is a good media moment. I think he was handed a pen, took the pen, wrote something on something—something without meaning or importance, except he created a fiction. Many who do not know about a veto, its definition or execution, were thrilled by the vision of POTUS signing his first veto.

Untruth from the White House to the public is rife. Actually, it is more subtle than Twitter rants riddled with identifiable lies. Constant lies are undermining our government—misinforming the public—making us all a tad dumber and a titch less able to defend our government and our way of life.


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. John H. Hart says:

    Carole, I get the point of your column. Trump trumpeting and beating his chest before the media pretending a “traditional” Presidential veto ceremony is commonplace. It is not! This president (term used loosely) can’t help himself when an opportunity comes to blunder into the spotlight. If nothing more, it childish.

  2. Michael Wise says:

    Technical correction: under the Constitution, if Congress passes a bill, presents it to the president, and the president does nothing, that bill becomes law ten days later. If the president vetoes it (within the ten days) and sends it back to Congress, it becomes law if both houses come up with enough votes to override; otherwise, not. And if the Congressional session ends before the ten days are up, the bill dies even if the president does not actively veto it: that is the “pocket veto”. That scenario has become rarer now that Congress is in session virtually continually.

  3. Charles Flynn says:

    Carole what the President did was exercise his constitutional right of a Regular Veto. That means, “when Congress is in session, the president may, within the 10-day period, exercise a regular veto by sending the unsigned bill back to the chamber of Congress from which it originated along with a veto message stating his reasons for rejecting it”. Note: the veto message was what he signed. He used the “Bully Pulpit” to show he was vetoing a resolution that was not in the best interests the citizens of the United States of America. I am sure you remember when his predecessor stated that “Elections have consequences.” Well they do. The consequence is that President Donald Trump won the 2016 election and is now looking out for the people of the United States of America. Maybe you should have taken the time to watch the ceremony.

  4. Anthony Ehrlich says:

    Congratulations on The Counterfeit Veto article by Carole Owens. The vetoing ceremony and document are as false as the “national emergency” posed by immigration at the southern border. The president seems incapable of using anything but superlatives, be they good or bad, in his pronouncements. We don’t have “problems,” we have crises or emergencies. His politics would seem to be strictly for show.

    1. Charles Flynn says:

      Anthony, There was no counterfeit in the veto by the President. He properly vetoed a binding resolution from the Congress and then signed his memo of reasoning that he sent back to the originating chamber. Not sure if you have ever been to our southern border, but there is a crisis and it is directly impacting those US citizens that live there.

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