The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Obama’s vetoed fewer bills than any president since Garfield. That could change.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Placeholder while article actions load

In his six years as president, Barack Obama has had to break out the veto stamp fewer times than any president since James Garfield (who died in 1881 after just a few months in office), according to data maintained by the Senate. By contrast, George W. Bush vetoed 12 bills (overridden 4 times) and Clinton vetoed 37 (overridden twice).

FDR holds the record for the most vetoes, however: in his 12 years in office he vetoed 635 bills, and was overridden only 9 times.

Obama's two vetoes took place during his first term, and dealt with a bill about foreclosures and a continuing resolution that had been rendered moot by other legislation. There was relatively little drama attached to either measure, but could this change starting in 2015? Probably, although not by much. The Republicans still don't have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and it's likely that Harry Reid will wield the filibuster just as enthusiastically as Mitch McConnell has before him. This means that it will be hard to get any bill past Congress without at least some measure of Democratic support.

Republican leaders have already signaled their intent to send several measures with bipartisan support to Obama's desk, including the Keystone Oil pipeline, a repeal of the medical device tax, and a handful of international trade agreements. Obama will have to choose whether to veto these bills over the support of members of his own party, or save the stamp for another fight.