When it comes to brandishing the veto pen, President Bush is making the tough-talking Ronald Reagan look like a wimp.
With his rejection Friday of the family leave measure, Bush has vetoed 13 bills since taking office 17 months ago -- more than twice as many as Reagan had rejected by this point in his presidency.
But frequent vetoes are actually the sign of a cooperative president, not a belligerent one, according to presidential historian Michael Beschloss. "Bush is by temperament someone who wants to negotiate with Congress rather than confront Congress," he said. "When that fails, he's more prone to use the ultimate sanction of the veto."
A president such as Reagan with a strong ideological bent is more likely to approach Congress on a "take-it-or-leave-it" basis, Beschloss said.
Congress has failed in its seven attempts to override a Bush veto, most recently falling short on a bill to revise the Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of federal employees.
One of the others was a pocket veto, rejected when the House and Senate were not in session. And lawmakers chose not to challenge four Bush vetoes, three of them dealing with the politically sensitive issue of abortion.
Bush has rejected more measures than any other new chief executive since Gerald Ford vetoed 44 bills in the first 17 months of his administration. During his 2 1/2-year administration, Ford vetoed 66 bills and was overridden 12 times.
By contrast, Reagan had vetoed only five measures by this point in his administration. Despite his frequent complaints about congressional irresponsibility, Reagan just said "No" to only 78 measures during his eight years in office; Congress overrode nine of his vetoes.
Dwight Eisenhower, the last president before Reagan to serve two full terms, rejected 181 pieces of legislation; only two were enacted over his objections.
There have been 13 presidential vetoes since Jan. 3, 1989, the opening of the first session of the 101st Congress:
June 13, 1989: A measure that would have increased the minimum wage from $3.35 an hour to $4.55 an hour over three years and provided a 60-day training wage -- equal to 85 percent of the minimum for workers who have not worked a total of 60 days. Bush wanted a smaller increase and a lower training wage that remained in effect for six months.
July 31, 1989: A joint resolution that would prohibit export of certain technological and defense articles in connection with the co-development and co-production of the FSX fighter plane with Japan. Bush said the measure was unnecessary to protect U.S. interests and also contained binding provisions that he believed infringed unconstitutionally on the executive branch's powers.
Aug. 16, 1989: A measure to expedite the signing of the savings and loan bailout bill (pocket veto).
Oct. 21, 1989: A fiscal 1990 spending bill for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments, which contained liberalized abortion language.
Oct. 27, 1989: A fiscal 1990 spending bill for the District of Columbia because of a provision that allowed local tax funds to pay for abortions.
Nov. 19, 1989: A fiscal 1990 foreign aid appropriations bill becasue of language that would have provided funds to a U.N. family planning agency. The agency contributes money to China, which is alleged to force women to undergo abortions and sterilizations.
Nov. 20, 1989: A second version of the D.C. appropriations bill because of liberalized abortion language.
Nov. 21, 1989: A measure that would have required the president to create a labor dispute board to mediate the Eastern Airlines strike. Bush said the measure was unnecessary because there was no national air emergency.
Nov. 21, 1989: A foreign relations bill because of language prohibiting the United States from arranging for third-party governments to act on its behalf.
Nov. 30, 1989: A bill that would have allowed Chinese students to remain in the United States after their visas expire. Bush said the Chinese government had threatened to stop participating in the Fulbright scholarship program and other educational exchange programs if the bill became law.
May 24, 1990: Legislation reauthorizing Amtrak for three years. Bush disagreed with a provision requiring the Interstate Commerce Commission to oversee takeovers of major railroads by non-railroad interests. Bush said it would be "an unwarranted regulatory roadblock to financial restructuring of the railroad industry."
June 15, 1990: A measure that would have amended the Hatch Act by allowing government employees to work in political campaigns on their own time, hold office in a political party and attend political conventions. Bush said it would lead to "political exploitation and abuse" within the federal bureaucracy.
June 29, 1990: The Family and Medical Leave Bill, which would permit workers to take up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave to care for sick family members or newborn children. According to White House officials, Bush supports "flexible family leave policies" but believes they should not be mandated by the federal government.
ATTEMPTS TO OVERRIDE:
There have been seven attempts to override presidential vetoes since Jan. 3, 1989.
June 14, 1989: The House failed to override the minimum wage veto by 37 votes.
Sept. 13, 1989: The Senate failed to override the FSX veto by one vote.
Oct. 25, 1989: The House failed to override the Labor-HHS appropriations veto by 51 votes.
Jan. 25, 1990: The House voted to override Bush's veto of the Chinese students bill, 390 to 25, on Jan. 24. But the Senate attempt fell four votes short.
March 7, 1990: The House failed to override the Eastern Airlines mediation panel by 21 votes.
June 12, 1990: The House voted to override Bush's veto of the Amtrak reauthorization bill by a vote of 294 to 123 on June 7, but the override attempt failed in the Senate by three votes.
June 21, 1990: The House voted 327 to 93 on June 20 to override Bush's veto of the Hatch Act revisions, but the Senate failed to override by two votes.
-- Compiled by Ralph Gaillard Jr.