A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

George W. Bush’s Presidential Vetoes


Q: Has President George W. Bush used his veto power more than most presidents?

A: No. Only 14 presidents have used their veto power fewer times than Bush, and only one president since the start of the 20th century has issued fewer vetoes.

FULL ANSWER:

According to the U.S. Senate, George W. Bush has issued nine vetoes. All nine have come during his second term in office. That’s the second-lowest total of any administration since the start of the 20th century. Warren G. Harding, whose fatal heart attack in 1923 limited his term to just two years, issued six vetoes.

The veto wasn't popular during the first century of the American republic. A 2004 Congressional Research Service study shows that each of the first 16 U.S. presidents issued fewer than 13 vetoes. In fact, six members of that group (Adams, Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Harrison, Taylor and Fillmore) issued no vetoes at all. Of course, only three of the six served a full term: Harrison died about a month after taking office, and Fillmore and Taylor shared a single term. The two Adamses each served a single term. That leaves Jefferson as the only two-term president not to issue a veto. Among the early chief executives, only John Tyler (10) and Andrew Jackson (12) cracked the double digits.

Presidential vetoes gained in popularity in the 20th century, reaching a high mark under Franklin D. Roosevelt, who issued an astonishing 635 of them, or almost 53 for each of his 12 years in office. Truman and Eisenhower likewise issued triple-digit vetoes. The numbers dropped off in the second-half of the 20th century, ranging from John F. Kennedy’s 21 to Ronald Reagan's 78.

– Joe Miller

Sources

Sollenberger, Mitchel A. "Presidential Vetoes, 1789-Present: A Summary Overview." 7 April 2004. U.S. House of Representatives: Rules. 8 May 2008.

United States Senate. "Vetoes by President George W. Bush." 11 March 2008. United States Senate: Reference. 8 May 2008.