Executive Veto Power

Madison’s Notes from the Constitutional Convention

Library of Congress

Executive Veto Power

"Every bill which shall have passed the two houses, shall, before it become a law, be severally presented to the President of the United States, and to the judges of the supreme court for the revision of each…"

-James Madison's motion as noted in his Notes on the Convention

Caleb Strong of Massachusetts moved that tax bills and appropriations should originate in the House, leaving the Senate free to amend. George Mason of Virginia seconded the motion and a fight was on. After debate Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, who favored the motion, thought the issue might be placed in a better perspective if it were postponed until the Senate's other powers were more carefully defined. The convention voted postponement by 6 to 5.

Next the delegates considered the executive veto power and the authority of Congress to override with a 2/3 vote in each house.Madison moved that both the Executive and Supreme Court should have veto power, with a 2/3 vote of each House to override if either branch vetoed a law. James Wilson of Pennsylvania seconded the motion. James Francis Mercer of Maryland approved in part because he "disapproved of the doctrine that the Judges as expositors of the Constitution should have authority to declare a law void."This motion also was voted down.

Gouverneur Morris expressed his regrets that the motion was defeated. He favored an absolute veto power by either the Executive or Judicial Branches, which he thought would act as a strong barrier against legislative instability. John Dickinson of Delaware agreed with Mercer that the judiciary should not have a veto power. Roger Sherman of Connecticut distrusted the power of a one-man executive over the many in Congress. Daniel Carroll of Maryland wanted the issue postponed until the Executive Branch was better defined. Gorham, Rutledge and Ellsworth, growing impatient, opposed postponement. The motion to postpone lost. Then Williamson moved to require a 3/4 vote to override a veto. This motion passed.

The veto power remained the principal topic of the day, and the body concluded its business by voting to allow ten days rather than seven for the Executive to return a bill.

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Thursday, August 16, 1787
Debate over Paper Money

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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