Presidents Not Signing a Bill

Gerard Magliocca

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Professor Magliocca is the author of three books and over twenty articles on constitutional law and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford, his law degree from Yale, and joined the faculty after two years as an attorney at Covington and Burling and one year as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professor Magliocca has received the Best New Professor Award and the Black Cane (Most Outstanding Professor) from the student body, and in 2008 held the Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands. He was elected to the American Law Institute (ALI) in 2013.

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4 Responses

  1. Kent says:

    If they don’t sign, and the bill turns our to be a good one (at least the public perception is a good one) an opponent in the next election can point to the fact that the President did not support the successful law and use it against him. If he signs it and objects, it’s harder for the future opponent to use it against the President in an election. Just a thought, I have exactly zero empirical evidence.

  2. Josh Chafetz says:

    I don’t remember if it engages with the historical question of why the practice died out, but a former student of mine wrote his Note on what he termed “default enactment”:

    Ross A. Wilson, Note, A Third Way: The Presidential Nonsigning Statement, 96 Cornell L. Rev. 1503 (2011).

  3. Joe says:

    If anything, with so many laws, it seems more economical not to worry about relatively trivial legislation. Autopens do save time here. As to elections, what about second terms? They have no third term for it it be a threat for there.

    The cited article lists a few recent cases where Presidents didn’t sign a bill, letting it become law by default, because they had some constitutional concern but did not wish to veto. I don’t see an “engagement” of the historical question.

    Did it happen a lot as a “protest” in the 19th Century? Was it related to the “Whig” view of the veto only warranted in special cases?

  4. Ross Goodman says:

    In the end, it’s all about politics. If you refused to sign a bill but the bill then turns out to be generally good or great, the president will carry the burden of criticism for his “incompetency.” Doing nothing however is different. It is a silent veto where nothing happens because the president decides to do nothing about the bill. Silence means less criticism.