Pocket Veto Case
279 U.S. 655 (1929)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929)

The Pocket Veto Case*

No. 565

Argued March 11, 1929

Decided May 27, 1929

279 U.S. 655

Syllabus

1. Under the second clause in § 7 of Article I of the Constitution, a bill which is passed by both Houses of Congress during the first regular session of a particular Congress and presented to the President less than ten days (Sundays excepted) before the adjournment of that session, but is neither signed by the President nor returned by him to the House in which it originated, does not become a law. P. 279 U. S. 672.

2. The Constitution, in giving the President a qualified negative over legislation -- commonly called a veto -- entrusts him with an authority, and imposes upon him an obligation, that are of the highest

Page 279 U. S. 656

importance, in the execution of which it is made his duty not only to sign bills that he approves in order that they may become law, but to return bills that he disapproves, with his objections, in order that they may be reconsidered by Congress. P. 279 U. S. 677.

3. The faithful and effective exercise of this duty necessarily requires time in which the President may carefully examine and consider a bill and determine, after due deliberation, whether he should approve or disapprove it, and, if he disapproves it, formulate his objections for the consideration of Congress. To that end, a specified time is given, after the bill has been presented to him, in which he may examine its provisions and either approve it or return it, not approved, for reconsideration. P. 279 U. S. 677.

4. The power thus conferred upon the President cannot be narrowed or cut down by Congress, nor the time within which it is to be exercised lessened, directly or indirectly. P. 279 U. S. 677.

5. It is just as essential a part of the constitutional provisions guarding against ill-considered and unwise legislation that the President, on his part, should have the full time allowed him for determining whether he should approve or disapprove a bill, and, if disapproved, for adequately formulating the objections that should be considered by Congress as it is that Congress, on its part, should have an opportunity to repass the bill over his objections. P. 279 U. S. 678.

6. When the adjournment of Congress prevents the return of a bill within the allotted time, the failure of the bill to become a law cannot properly be ascribed to the disapproval of the President -- who presumably would have returned it before the adjournment if there had been sufficient time in which to complete his consideration and take such action -- but is attributable solely to the action of Congress in adjourning before the time allowed the President for returning the bill had expired. P. 279 U. S. 678.

7. The phrase "within ten days (Sundays excepted)" in the clause of the Constitution here in question refers not to legislative days, but to calendar days. P. 279 U. S. 679.

8. The term "adjournment," as used in this constitutional provision, is not limited to the final adjournment of the Congress. P. 279 U. S. 680.

9. The determinative question in reference to an "adjournment" is not whether it is a final adjournment of Congress or an interim adjournment, such as an adjournment of the first session, but whether it is one that "prevents" the President from returning the bill to the House in which it originated within the time allowed. P. 279 U. S. 680.

Page 279 U. S. 657

10. An interim adjournment of Congress at the end of the first session, as the result of which, although the legislative existence of the House in which the bill originated has not been terminated, it is not in session on the last day of the period allowed the President for returning the bill, prevents him from returning it to such House. P. 279 U. S. 681.

11. The "House" to which the bill is to be returned is a House in session -- sitting in an organized capacity for the transaction of business and having authority to receive the return, enter the President's objections on its journal, and proceed to reconsider the bill; and no return can be made to the House when it is not in session as a collective body and its members are dispersed. P. 279 U. S. 682.

12. This accords with the long-established practice of both Houses of Congress to receive messages from the President while they are in session. P. 279 U. S. 683.

13. There is no substantial basis for the suggestion that, although the House in which the bill originated be not in session, the bill may nevertheless be returned, consistently with the constitutional mandate, by delivering it, with the President's objections, to an officer or agent of the House for subsequent delivery to the House when it resumes its sittings at the next session, with the same force and effect as if the bill had been returned to the House on the day when it was delivered to such officer or agent. P. 279 U. S. 683.

14. The above construction is confirmed by the practical construction given to this provision of the Constitution by the Presidents through a long course of years, and in which Congress has acquiesced. P. 279 U. S. 688.

66 Ct.Cls. 26, affirmed.

Certiorari, 278 U.S. 597, to review a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing a petition upon the ground that a bill passed by Congress, upon which the jurisdiction was dependent, had not become a law.

Page 279 U. S. 672

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