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A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to stop unilaterally a piece of legislation. In practice, the veto can be absolute (as in the U.N. Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution) or limited (as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation).[citation needed]

A veto gives power, possibly unlimited, to stop changes, but not to adopt them. The influence that the veto conveys to its holder is therefore directly proportional to the holder's conservatism, broadly defined. The more the holder of a veto supports the status quo, the more useful the veto.[1]

The concept of a veto body originated with the Roman consuls and tribunes. Either of the two consuls holding office in a given year could block a military or civil decision by the other; any tribune had the power to unilaterally refuse legislation passed by the Roman Senate.[citation needed]


Westminster systems

In Westminster Systems and most constitutional monarchies, the power to veto legislation by withholding the Royal Assent is a rarely used reserve power of the monarch. In practice, the Crown follows the convention of exercising its prerogative on the advice of its chief advisor, the prime minister.

In Spain, the article 115 of the Constitution provides that the King shall give his assent to Laws passed by the General Courts within 15 days after their final passement by them; the absence of the Royal Assent, although not constitutionally provided, would mean the bill not to become Law.


Since the Statute of Westminster (1931), the Crown of the United Kingdom and its Parliament may not veto or repeal any Act of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia on the grounds that is repugnant to the laws and interests of the United Kingdom[1]. Other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations (not to be confused with the Commonwealth of Australia), such as Canada and New Zealand, are likewise affected. However, according to the Australian Constitution (sec. 59), the Queen may veto a bill that has been given royal assent by the Governor-General within one year of the legislation being assented to[2].This power has never been used. The Australian Governor-General himself or herself has, in theory, power to veto, or more technically, withhold assent to, a bill passed by both houses of the Australian Parliament, and contrary to the advice of the prime minister[3]. This may be done without consulting the sovereign. This reserve power is however, constitutionally arguable, and it is difficult to foresee an occasion when such a power would need to be exercised. It is possible that a Governor-general might so act if a bill passed by the Parliament was criminal, illegal or in violation of the Constitution[4]. One might argue, however, that a government would be hardly likely to present a bill which is so open to rejection. Many of the vice-regal reserve powers are untested, because of the brief constitutional history of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the observance of the convention that the head of state acts upon the advice of his or her chief minister.

With regard to the six governors of the states which are federated under the Australian Commonwealth, a somewhat different situation exists. Until the Australia Act 1986, each state was constitutionally dependent upon the British Crown directly. Since 1986, however, they are fully independent entities, although the Queen still appoints governors on the advice of the state head of government, the premier. So the Crown or UK Parliament may not veto or overturn any act of a state governor or state legislature. Paradoxically, the states are more independent of the Crown than the federal government and legislature[5]. State constitutions determine what role a governor plays. In general the governor exercises the powers the sovereign would have, including the power to withhold the Royal Assent.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the royal veto was last exercised in 1707 or 1708 by Queen Anne with the Scottish Militia Bill 1708.

In nations of the Commonwealth where the Westminster System is followed, the reserve power, and therefore the power of withholding the Royal Assent, is generally exercised by the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, usually styled Governor-General or Governor. The nature of the power and how it is exercised may be, and usually is, determined by the legislatures of the nations.

United States

The word "veto" does not appear in the United States Constitution. Per U.S. Const., Article I, Section 7 all legislation passed by both houses of Congress must be presented to the President. This presentation is in the President's capacity as head of state.

If the President approves of the legislation, he signs it (sign into law). If he does not approve, he must return the bill, unsigned, within ten days, excluding Sundays, to the house of the United States Congress in which it originated, while the Congress is in session. The President is constitutionally required to state his objections to the legislation in writing, and the Congress is constitutionally required to consider them, and to reconsider the legislation. This action, in effect, is a veto.

If the Congress overrides the veto by a two-thirds majority in each house, it becomes law without the President's signature. Otherwise, the bill fails to become law unless it is presented to the President again and he chooses to sign it.

A bill can also become law without the President's signature if, after it is presented to him, he simply fails to sign it within the ten days noted. If there are fewer than ten days left in the session before Congress adjourns, and if Congress does so adjourn before the ten days have expired in which the President might sign the bill, then the bill fails to become law. This procedure, when used as a formal device, is called a pocket veto.

In 1996, the Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. This act allowed the President to veto individual items of budgeted expenditures from appropriations bills instead of vetoing the entire bill and sending it back to the Congress. However, this line-item veto was immediately challenged by members of Congress who disagreed with it. In 1998, the Supreme Court declared that the line-item veto was unconstitutional. The Court found the language of the Constitution required each bill presented to the President to be either approved or rejected as a whole. An action by which the President might pick and choose which parts of the bill to approve or not approve amounted to the President acting as a legislator instead of an executive and head of state - and particularly as a single legislator acting in place of the entire Congress - thereby violating the separation of powers doctrine. (See Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998).)

In 2006, Senator Bill Frist introduced the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006 in the United States Senate. Rather than provide for an actual legislative veto, however, the procedure created by the Act provides that, if the President should recommend rescission of a budgetary line item from a budget bill he previously signed into law - a power he already possesses pursuant to U.S. Const. Art. II - the Congress must vote on his request within ten days. Because the legislation that is the subject of the President's request (or "Special Message," in the language of the bill) was already enacted and signed into law, the vote by the Congress would be ordinary legislative action, not any kind of veto - whether line-item, legislative or any other sort. The House passed this measure, but the Senate never considered it, so the bill expired and never became law.

In 1982, the Supreme Court had struck down the one-house legislative veto, also on separation of powers grounds and on grounds that the action by one house of Congress violated the Constitutional requirement of bicameralism. The case was INS v. Chadha, concerning a foreign exchange student in Ohio who had been born in Kenya but whose parents were from India. Because he was not born in India, he was not an Indian citizen. Because his parents were not Kenyan citizens, he was not Kenyan. Thus, he had nowhere to go when his student visa expired because neither country would take him, so he overstayed his visa and was ordered to show cause why he should not be deported from the United States.

The Immigration and Nationality Act was one of many acts of Congress passed since the 1930s, which contained a provision allowing either house of that legislature to nullify decisions of agencies in the executive branch simply by passing a resolution. In this case, Chadha's deportation was suspended and the House of Representatives passed a resolution overturning the suspension, so that the deportation proceedings would continue. This, the Court held, amounted to the House of Representatives passing legislation without the concurrence of the Senate, and without presenting the legislation to the President for consideration and approval (or veto). Thus, the Constitutional principle of bicameralism and the separation of powers doctrine were disregarded in this case, and this legislative veto of executive decisions was struck down.

The Presidents of the Continental Congress (1774 - 1781) did not have the power of veto. Nor could the President veto an act of Congress under the Articles of Confederation (1781 - 1789), though he possessed certain recess and reserve powers that were not necessarily available to the predecessor President of Continental Congress. But with the enactment of the United States Constitution (drafted 1787; ratified 1788; fully effective since 4 March 1789), veto power was conferred upon the person titled "President of the United States."

The presidential veto power was first exercised on April 5, 1792 when George Washington vetoed a bill designed to apportion representatives among the several states. The Congress first overrode a presidential veto - that is, passed a bill into law notwithstanding the President's objections - on March 3, 1845.[2]

Most U.S. states also have a provision by which legislative decisions can be vetoed by the governor. In addition, most of these states allow the governor to exercise a line-item veto.

European parliamentary republics

Presidential veto

Parliamentary republics in Europe, including Italy, Portugal, Ireland, France, Latvia, the Ukraine, and Hungary often allow a form of limited presidential veto on legislation.

The President of Austria does not technically have veto power. However the president can order a referendum on a bill passed by the legislature if they refuse to sign it.

The President of Iceland can refuse to sign a bill which is then put to universal adult suffrage.

The President of Ireland can refuse to grant assent to a bill which he/she considers to be unconstitutional, on the advice of the Council of State; in this case the bill is referred to the Supreme Court of Ireland, which finally determines the matter.

The President of Italy can request a second deliberation of a bill passed by Parliament before it is promulgated. This is very weak form of veto, as the Parliament can override the veto by an ordinary majority. The same provision exists in France and Latvia. While such a limited veto cannot thwart the will of a determined parliamentary majority, it may have a delaying effect, and may cause the parliamentary majority to reconsider the matter.

The President of Portugal can refuse to sign a bill and return it to Parliament with his proposals. If the parliament agrees on this proposals the President should sign a bill. Parliament can overturn a veto by 2/3 majority.

The President of Latvia may suspend a bill for a period of two months, during which it may be referred to the people in a referendum if a certain number of signatures are gathered. This is potentially a much stronger form of veto, as it enables the President to appeal to the people against the wishes of the Parliament and Government.

The President of Ukraine, just like the Portuguese President, can refuse to sign a bill and return it to Parliament with his proposals. If the parliament agrees on his proposals, the President should sign the bill. Parliament can overturn a veto by 2/3 majority. If the parliament overturns his veto, the President should sign the bill. If he fails to do so in 10 days, then the Chairman of the Parliament signs it.

The President of Hungary has two options to veto a bill: S/he may submit it to the Constitutional Court in case of any suspicion that it violates the constitution, or s/he may send it back to the Parliament and ask for a second debate and vote on the bill. If the Court rules that the bill is not unconstitutional or it is passed by the Parliament again, respectively, the President must sign it.

Liberum veto

In the constitution of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Poland, there was an institution called the liberum veto. All bills had to pass the Sejm (Parliament) by unanimous consent, and if any legislator voted nay on anything, this not only vetoed that bill but dissolved that legislative session itself. The concept originated in the idea of "Polish democracy", that any Pole of noble extraction was as good as any other, no matter how low or high his material condition might be. It was never exercised in practice under the rule of the strong Polish royal dynasties, but these came to an end in the mid-17th century, and were followed by an elective kingship. As might be expected, the more and more frequent use of this veto power paralyzed the power of the legislature, and, combined with a string of weak figurehead kings, led ultimately to the partitioning and dissolution of the Polish state in the following century.

See also


  1. ^ Generally, the power of the veto increases in direct proportion to the divergence of the political orientation between the wielder of the veto and the lawmaking bodies on whose legislative acts the veto may be used. In other words, the power of the veto nears its apex when a strongly liberal president uses the veto in a bid to block the legislation of a strongly conservative legislature, and vice versa. To be sure, other factors and circumstances will influence a veto’s power in a given situation (e.g. the ideological direction of a country’s existing laws). However, the divergence of the political orientation between the wielder of the veto and the adverse lawmaking bodies will nonetheless be a primary determinant of the veto’s power.[citation needed]
  2. ^ "Presidential Vetoes, 1789 to 1988" (pdf). The U.S. Government Printing Office. February 1992. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VETO (Lat. for "I forbid"), generally the right of preventing any act, or its actual prohibition; in public law, the constitutional right of the competent authority, or in republics of the whole people in their primary assembly, to protest against a legislative or administrative act, and to prevent wholly, or for th, time being, the validation or execution of the same.

It is generally stated that this right was called into existence in the Roman republic by the tribunicia potestas, because by this authority decisions of the senate, and of the consuls and other magistrates, could be declared inoperative. Such a statement must, however, be qualified by reference to the facts that interdico, interdiciinus were the expressions used, and, in general, that in ancient Rome every holder of a magistracy would check a negotiation set on foot, by a colleague, his equal in rank, by his opposition and intervention. This was a consequence of the position that each of the colleagues possessed the whole power of the magistracy, and this right of intervention must have come into existence with the introduction of colleagued authorities, i.e. with the commencement of the republic. In the Roman magistracy a twofold power must be distinguished: the positive management of the affairs of the state entrusted to each individual, and the power of restraining the acts of magistrates of equal or inferior rank by his protest. As the tribuni plebis possessed this latter negative competence to a great extent, it is customary to attribute to them the origin of the veto.

In the former kingdom of Poland the precedent first set in 1652 was established by law as a constant right, that in the imperial diet a single deputy by his protest "Nie pozwalam," i.e. " I do not permit it," could invalidate the decision sanctioned by the other members. The king of France received the right of a suspensory veto at the commencement of the French Revolution, from the National Assembly sitting at Versailles in 1789, with regard to the decrees of the latter, which was only to be valid for the time being against the decisions come to and during the following National Assembly, but during the period of the third session it was to lose its power if the Assembly persisted in its resolution. By this means it was endeavoured to diminish the odium of the measure; but, as is well known, the monarchy was soon afterwards entirely abolished. Similarly the Spanish Constitution of 1812 prescribed that the king might twice refuse his sanction to bills laid twice before him by two sessions of the cortes, but if the third session repeated the same he could no longer exercise the power of veto. The same was the case in the Norwegian Constitution of 1814.

In the French republic the president has no veto strictly so called, but he has a power somewhat resembling it. He can, when a bill has passed both Chambers, by a message to them, refer it back for further deliberation. The king or queen of England has the right to withhold sanction from a bill passed by both houses of parliament. This royal prerogative has not been exercised since 1692 and may now be considered obsolete. The governor of an English colony with a representative legislature has the power of veto against a bill passed by the legislative body of a colony. In this case the bill is finally lost, just as a bill would be which had been rejected by the colonial council, or as a bill passed by the English houses of parliament would be if the crown were to exert the prerogative of refusing the royal assent. The governor may, however, without refusing his assent, reserve the bill for the consideration of the crown. In that case the bill does not come into force until it has either actually or constructively received the royal assent, which is in effect the assent of the English ministry, and therefore indirectly of the imperial parliament. Thus the colonial liberty of legislation is made legally reconcilable with imperial sovereignty, and conflicts between colonial and imperial laws are prevented.' The constitution of the United States of America contains in art. i., sect. 7, par. 2, the following order: "Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it become a law, be presented to the president of the United States; if he approve, he shall sign it, if not, he shall return it with his objections to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of that house shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and, if approved by twothirds of that house, it shall become a law. Every order, resolution or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the president of the United States, and, before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or, being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill." In all states of the Union except one the governors, in the same manner or to a modified extent, possess the right of vetoing bills passed by the legislature. Here, therefore, we have again a suspensory veto which is frequently exercised.

According to the constitution of the German empire of 1871, the imperial legislation is executed by the federal council and imperial diet; the emperor is not mentioned. In the federal council the simple majority of votes decides. But in the case of bills concerning the army, the navy and certain specially noted taxes, as well as in the case of decisions concerning the alteration of orders for the administration, and arrangements for the execution of the laws of customs and taxes, the proposal of the federal council is only accepted if the Prussian votes are on the side of the majority in favour of the same (art. vii., sect. 3). Prussia presides in the federal council. The state of things is therefore, in fact, as follows: it is not the German emperor, but the same monarch as king of Prussia, who has the right of veto against bills and decisions of the federal council, and therefore can prevent the passing of an imperial law. The superior power of the presidential vote obtains, it is true, its due influence only in one legislative body, but in reality it has the same effect as the veto of the head of the empire.

The Swiss federal constitution grants the president of the Confederation no superior position at all; neither he nor the federal council possesses the power of veto against laws or decisions of the federal assembly. But in some cantons, viz. St Gall (1831), Basel (1832) and Lucerne (1841),(1841), the veto was introduced as a right of the people. The citizens had the power to submit to a plebiscite laws which had been debated and accepted by the cantonal council (the legislative authority), and to reject the same. If this plebiscite was not demanded within a certain short specified time, the law came into force. But, if the voting took place, and if the number of persons voting against the law exceeded by one vote half the number of persons entitled to vote in the canton, the law was rejected. The absent voters were considered as having voted in favour of the law. An attempt to introduce the veto in Zurich in 1847 failed. Thurgau and Schaffhausen accepted it later. Meanwhile another arrangement has quite driven it out of the field. This is the so-called "referendum" - properly speaking, direct legislation by the people - which has been introduced into most of the Swiss cantons. Formerly in all cantons - with the exception of the small mountainous districts of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Glarus and Appenzell - it was not a pure democracy, but a representative constitution that prevailed: the great councillors or cantonal councillors periodically chosen by the people were the possessors of the sovereign power, and after deliberating twice passed the bills definitely. Now they have only to discuss the bills, which ' A. V. Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, pp. 111 seq. (6th ed., London, 1902); Sir H. Jenkyns, British Rule and Jurisdiction beyond the Seas, pp. 113 seq. (London, 1902).

are printed and sent to all voters with an explanatory message; then the people on a certain day vote for the acceptance or rejection of the law by writing "yes" or "no" on a printed voting paper, which is placed in an urn under official control. In some cantons important financial resolutions involving large state expenses are also submitted to the decision of the people. In the revised federal constitution of 1874, under certain suppositions which have no further interest for us at present, a facultative referendum or Initiative (i.e. the possibility of demanding a plebiscite under exceptional circumstances) was introduced for federal laws. Since that period it has often been employed and has operated like a veto. It is evident that by the compulsory referendum in the cantons the mere veto is rendered superfluous.

In examining the question as to what position the veto occupies in jurisprudence, we must separate quite different conceptions which are comprised under the same name.

1. The veto may be a mere right of intervention on the part of a magistrate against the order of another official, or against that of an authority of equal or inferior rank. This was the case in ancient Rome. To this class belong also those cases in which, as in the French republic, the president makes his "no" valid against decisions of the general councillors, and the prefect does the same against decisions of the communal councillors. The use of the expression here is quite justifiable, and this veto is not confined to bills, but refers particularly to administrative measures. It affords a guarantee against the abuse of an official position.

2. The veto may be a safety-valve against precipitate decisions, and so a preventive measure. This task is fulfilled by the suspensory veto of the president of the United States. Similarly, to this class belong the above-mentioned prescriptions of the Spanish and Norwegian constitutions, and also the veto of the governor of an English colony against decisions of the legislature; for this protest is only intended to prevent a certain want of harmony between the general and the colonial legislation, by calling forth a renewed investigation. This veto is neither an interference with the competence of an authority, nor a division of the legislative power among different factors, but simply a guarantee against precipitancy in the case of a purely legislative measure. The wisdom of establishing this veto power by the constitution is thus manifest.

3. It is wrong to apply the term veto to what is merely the negative side of the sanctioning of the laws, in other words, an act of sovereignty. It would not be in accordance with the nature of a constitutional monarchy to declare the monarch's consent to a law unnecessary, or make it a compulsory duty; the legislative power is divided between him and the chambers. The sovereign must therefore be perfectly at liberty to say "yes" or "no" in each single case according to his opinion. If he says the latter, we speak of it as his veto, but this - if he possesses an absolute and not merely a suspensory veto - is not an intervention and not a preventive measure, but the negative side of the exercise of the legislative power, and therefore an act of sovereignty. That this right belongs fully and entirely to the hclder of sovereign power - however he may be called - is self-evident. One chamber can also by protest prevent a bill of the other from coming into force. The "placet of the temporal power for church affairs - when it occurs - also involves in this manner in itself the veto or non placet." Where in pure democracies the people in their assembly have the right of veto or referendum, the exercise of it is also a result of the sovereign rights of legislature. (For the question of the conflict between the two houses of England, see REPRESENTATION.) The peculiar power of veto possessed by the (Prussian) president of the federal council of Germany lies on the boundary between (2) and (3). (v. 0.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also veto



Veto n.

  1. veto

Simple English

A right of veto means that somebody can stop decisions or legislation.

For example, the president of the United States of America has veto power over the USA's parliament. This means that he can stop laws or bills from being passed. Similarly, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (The United States of America, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France) each have veto power. Using this, they can stop the security council's decisions from being passed and becoming resolutions.

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