How Many Bills Did Barack Obama Veto?

President Barack Obama used his veto authority only four times during his tenure in the White House, the fewest of any president who completed at least one term since Millar Fillmore in the mid-1800s, according to data kept by the U.S. Senate.

Obama used his veto power even more scarcely than did his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who vetoed a total of 12 bills during his two terms in the White House.

How a Veto Works

When both chambers of Congress – the House of Representative and the Senate – pass a bill, the legislation goes to the president's desk for signature into law. If the president favors the law, he'll sign in. If the bill is important enough, ​the president often uses numerous pens while writing his signature

Once the bill arrives on the president's desk, he has 10 days to either sign it or reject it. If the president does nothing the bill becomes law in most cases. If the president vetoes the bill, he often returns it to Congress with an explanation for his opposition.

Which Bills Did Barack Obama Veto?

Here's a list of the bills vetoed by Barack Obama during his two terms in office, an explanation of why he vetoed the bills and what the bills would have done if signed into law.

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest
Opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline say it would result in environmental catastrophe and increased pollution leading to global warming. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act in February of 2015 because it would have circumvented his administration's authority over whether the project to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico should be undertaken  The Keystone XL Pipeline would carry oil across 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska. Estimates have placed the cost of building the pipeline at $7.6 billion.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama wrote in a veto memo to Congress.

"The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including our security, safety, and environment – it has earned my veto." More »

National Labor Relations Board Union Election Rule

Laborers International Union of North America Logo
Laborers International Union of North America

Obama vetoed the National Labor Relations Board Union Election Rule in March of 2015. The legislation would have scrapped a set of procedural rules regarding the union organizing process, including allowing for some records to be filed by email and speeding up union elections.

Wrote Obama in his veto memo

"Workers deserve a level playing field that lets them freely choose to make their voices heard, and this requires fair and streamlined procedures for determining whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. Because this resolution seeks to undermine a streamlined democratic process that allows American workers to freely choose to make their voices heard, I cannot support it."

Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the Oval Office, Aug. 2, 2011. Official White House Photo/Pete Souza

Obama vetoed the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010 in October of that year after critics said it would make foreclosure fraud easier by mandating mortgage records be recognized across state lines. The measure was passed at a time when mortgage companies acknowledged widespread forgeries of records. 

" ... We need to think through the intended and unintended consequences of this bill on consumer protections, especially in light of the recent developments with mortgage processors," Obama wrote in his veto memo.

Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2010

Pentagon Photo
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense and is located in Virginia. National Archive/Getty Images News

Obama vetoed the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2010 in December of 2009 in what was more of a technical matter. The vetoed legislation was a stop-gap spending measure passed by Congress in the event it couldn't agree on a spending bill for the Department of Defense. It did agree, so the stop-gap bill was, quite literally, unnecessary. Obama called the legislation "unnecessary" in his veto memo.