The refusal of an executive officer to assent to a bill that has been created and approved by the legislature, thereby depriving the bill of any legally binding effect.
Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution states that "every bill" and "every order, resolution or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and the House of Representatives may be necessary" must be presented to the president for approval. If the president disapproves of the legislation and declines to sign the bill, he issues a veto, returning the bill unsigned to Congress. Similar provisions in state constitutions give governors the same veto power, and municipal charters often give the mayor the right to veto legislation from the city council.
The veto power gives the executive a central role in the legislative process. By threatening a veto before legislation is passed, the executive can force the legislature to compromise and pass amendments it would otherwise find unacceptable. Though there is great power in the veto, most executives use it cautiously, as overuse can antagonize the legislature and create political risk for the executive.
Under the Constitution the president has ten days (not counting Sundays) in which to consider legislation presented for approval. The president has three options: sign the bill, making it law; veto the bill; or take no action on the bill during the ten-day period. A veto can be over-ridden by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress. If the president takes no action, the bill automatically becomes law after ten days. If Congress adjourns before the ten days have expired and the president has not signed the bill,
however, the bill is said to have been subjected to a pocket veto. A pocket veto deprives Congress of the chance to override a formal veto. State governors have similar veto and pocket veto powers, and state legislatures usually are required to override vetoes by a two-thirds majority of both houses.
In the majority of states the governor also has the authority to select particular items from an appropriations bill and veto them individually. This authority, called the line-item veto, is popular because it allows the executive to cancel specific appropriations items from bills that are hundreds of pages long. The legislature can override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Presidents RONALD REAGAN and GEORGE...