Bills Vetoed Under the Obama Administration

How Barack Obama Used His Veto Power

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 Millard Fillmore in the mid-1800s, according to data kept by the U.S. Senate, ("Summary of Bills Vetoed"). Obama used his veto power more rarely than did his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who vetoed a total of 12 bills during his two terms in the White House, very few in comparison to most presidents before him.

How a Veto Works

When both chambers of Congress–the House of Representatives and the Senate–pass a bill, the legislation goes to the president's desk for their final approval and signature before the bill goes into law. Once the bill arrives on the president's desk, they have 10 days to either sign it or reject it. From there:

  • If the president does nothing, a bill becomes law in most cases.
  • If the president vetoes the bill, it may be returned to Congress with an explanation for the president's opposition.
  • If the president favors the law, they'll sign it. If the bill is important enough, ​the president often uses numerous pens when writing their signature

The following is 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.

Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2010

Pentagon Photo
National Archive/Getty Images News

When Obama vetoed the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2010 in December of 2009, his reasons were technical rather than content-related. 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 no longer needed. Obama even called the legislation "unnecessary" in his veto memo.

Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010

President Barack Obama
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 to carry out by mandating that mortgage records be recognized across state lines. The measure was proposed at a time when mortgage companies acknowledged widespread forgeries of records and were themselves opposed to the idea. 

" ... 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.

Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

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

In a veto memo to Congress, Obama wrote: "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 ... 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 the environment—it has earned my veto."

National Labor Relations Board Union Election Rule

California Nurses Strike To Protest Patient Care Conditions, Ebola Preparation in 2014

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Obama vetoed the National Labor Relations Board Union Election Rule in March of 2015. This 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.

As Obama wrote in his veto memo for this decision: "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."

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