Fastest Veto in History?

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It was reported yesterday that President-elect Obama told a closed-door meeting of senators that he would veto any resolution to restrict the second TARP tranch of $350 billion.  Because Congress has fifteen days from Monday to pass the resolution and the president has 10 days to veto it, any such showdown would occur no later than the president's first two weeks in office.  But because of the urgency involved, it could come as early as inauguration day.

That got me, the author of a recent paper on the history of the veto, wondering whether it would be the earliest veto in any president's first term.  As I suspected even before cracking the books, the current record holder is Gerald Ford who vetoed legislstion to "reclassify positions of deputy marshals" on day 4 of his adminstration.  But, as they would say in track and field, that record is "wind-aided."  Similarly, Lyndon Johnson vetoed amendments to a tariff act on day 37.  Among first term elected presidents, the mark is day 36 by U.S. Grant.  This one also deserves an asterick because it was a pocket veto after one of the short March legislative sessions that were held prior to the constitutional amendment moving inauguration from March to January. 

So I declare that the modern record is held by Obama's idol FDR who vetoed amendments to the Federal Farm Loan Act after just 103 days.  So Obama would absolutely smash this mark unless one side blinks (which alas I predict will be the case).

Here is how all the other presidents since 1900 stack up.  The topics of some of the vetoed legislation are downright quaint.

President

Entered Office

First Veto

Day in Office

Topic

Bush II

1/20/2001

7/19/2006

2007

Restrictions on Stem Cell Funding

Clinton

1/20/1993

6/7/1993

139

FY 1995 Supplemental

Bush I

1/20/1989

7/1/1989

163

Export of technology for FS-X aircraft

Reagan

1/20/1981

11/23/1981

308

Continuing appropriation for FY 1982

Carter

1/20/1977

11/5/1977

290

Authorization for Energy Research Development Admin

Ford

8/9/1974

8/12/1974

4

Reclassify positions of deputy Marshals

Nixon

1/20/1969

1/26/1970

372

Labor/HEW Appropriations

Johnson

11/24/1963

12/30/1963

37

Amend Tariff Act of 1930

Kennedy

1/20/1961

5/26/1961

127

Relief of William Joseph Vincent

Eisenhower

1/20/1953

6/15/1953

147

Relief of Helmuth Wolf Gruhl

Truman

4/12/1945

7/17/1945

97

Amend Selective Training and Service Act

F. Roosevelt

3/4/1933

6/15/1933

104

Amend Federal Farm Loan Act

Hoover

3/4/1929

4/21/1930

414

Coin 50-cent pieces commemorating Gadsden Purchase

Coolidge

8/2/1923

5/3/1924

276

Omnibus pension bill

Harding

3/4/1921

12/20/1921

292

Codify, Amend, and Revise Laws related to Judiciary

Wilson

3/4/1913

10/22/1913

233

Reinstate Adolph Unger at West Point

Taft

3/4/1909

3/28/1910

390

Amend military record of Aaron Cornish

T. Roosevelt

9/14/1901

3/11/1902

179

Remove Desertion charge from John Glass

4 Comments

This is a really interesting post but I'd be curious to know if there were any vetoes of private bills that came more quickly. My recollection is that there was a continuous stream of these after the Civil War and presidents would veto them pretty frequently.

Of course, several of the 20th Century first vetoes were private bills (reinstate Adolph Unger at West Point, relief of Helmuth Wolf Gruhl, etc) as was Grant's March term veto (relief of Blanton Duncan). But there were no other March Term vetoes. The March term was used almost exclusively to confirm executive appointments and not much legislation was passed. Most of the first vetoes for 19th Century presidents came during the regular November term.

Wouldn't you love to have a 50-cent piece commemorating the Gadsden Purchase?

What struck me when reading the topics was how "unimportant" most of the earlier bills were, including what appear to be private-member bills (as Nolan mentions here in the comments). Indeed, that sort of veto presumably was what the instrument was originally intended for. (Or so I have argued in blog space.)

Matt:

Yes, that 50-cent piece would now be worth a pretty penny. Thanks for the link to your post. I actually argue the exact opposite in the piece I linked to above. The thing that always struck me about the Federalist Papers and Madison's Notes is that the constitution writers were aware of the policy implications of the veto (through observations of royal governors and some state governors) yet never made an explicit effort to limit the scope of the veto.

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