The Time for a Presidential Veto
I just finished reading Samuel I Rosenman’s book Working With Roosevelt, which is the biography of FDR’s principal speechwriter during his years as Governor and for much of his presidency. In that book, I came across this interesting constitutional nugget.
Article One, Section Seven says: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”
When the President was preparing to go to Tehran for his conference with Stalin and Churchill in 1943, the following question came up: Suppose a bill was passed while he was away and it took more than ten days to send the legislation around the world, get his decision, and send the decision back. (No phone connections could work, of course.) The President’s advisors concluded that the constitutional language “presented to him” could be read as “presented to him in person,” which would mean that the ten days would not start until the bill reached Iran.
It turned out that the President did not need to veto any bills that he could not return in ten days from the time of passage, so the problem never ripened. Still, a neat problem for discussion.