President Obama has faced many challenges from Republicans during his seven years in office, but with just 366 days to go, there could be one more looming on the horizon.
That’s at least if political science professor and Washington Post contributor Robert Spitzer has anything to do with it.
In a recent piece for the Post, Spitzer calls out President Obama for “unconstitutionally” combining vetoes to shut down Republican legislation overriding his climate change initiatives.
While there was certainly no mystery that a veto was coming when the GOP voted the way it did, Spitzer attests, it’s the way that President Obama went about handling his expected veto that crossed the line into “power grab” territory.
“The Constitution provides the president with two veto options: the regular or return veto, where the president returns the bill to Congress with his objections, and the pocket veto, which kills the bill without returning it to Congress,” Spitzer explained.
He also pointed out that most Presidents “like the pocket veto better for the obvious reason that it is absolute, with no possibility of veto override, but the Constitution does not allow presidents to pick and choose the kind of veto they wish to use.”
However, that’s what President Obama did, Spitzer claims.
Apparently, a pocket veto can only be used “as long as the bill can be returned” to Congress.
Under what is considered appropriate, a pocket veto can only happen while Congress is adjourned and “bill return must be ‘prevented,’ ” Spitzer states, adding that “these two linked conditions in turn acknowledge the existence of adjournments when bill return is possible.”
Spitzer cites the Founding Fathers rejection of monarchical ideals when framing the Constitution and also points out their preference for “return” vetoes, so that the power of override exists.
A pocket veto is deemed necessary but not preferred by the Constitution because it keeps Congress from passing something and immediately adjourning to avoid Presidential pushback. Without it, a bill open for objection “would simply become law after ten days, whether the president signed it or not,” the professor writes.
President Obama combined the pocket veto with the return while Congress was still in session to leave no doubt that the legislation was being vetoed.
What he did is called a “protective return pocket veto,” and the problem, at least for Spitzer, is that it “creates doubt because it combines two mutually exclusive actions: a regular veto and a pocket veto.”
It is what he refers to as “a presidential power grab designed to stretch the no-override pocket veto into an absolute veto.” This could, in turn, be used whenever Congress is not in session, “giving the president the very power the Founders sought to deny the office,” Spitzer adds.
For more of his thoughts on the matter, check out the full piece at this link.
There are two reasons why President Obama may want to heed the warning of Spitzer. For starters, he is a Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at SUNY Cortland, as well as a prolific author on policy.
But beyond that, he’s already been dealt a judicial defeat on immigration from a federal judge, as PolitiFact notes here. The ramifications in this case if Republicans successfully challenge the veto is that the 10 days President Obama has to veto are already past.
Should another federal ruling break in the GOP’s favor, their approved legislation would be veto-proof, and it would effectively wipe out Obama’s efforts to impede climate change.
It would also add to the “lame duck” accusations that many are throwing around regarding his last year in office.
Do you think what President Obama did was unconstitutional? Sound off in the comments section.