9 U.S. Presidents with the Most Vetoes

Throughout history, the U.S. Presidentof the United States has used 9 U.S. Presidents with the Most Vetoes to varying degrees, the veto power, which has proven to be a valuable check on the legislative acts of Congress. While some presidents have opted to utilize it sparingly, others have chosen to disregard it entirely. However, a few presidents have gone to great lengths (for better or worse) in using their influence over Congress, which gives us at EB the opportunity to list the most notable of them here, beginning with…

9. Calvin Coolidge (50)

Calvin Coolidge
National Archives,
Washington, D.C.

Following the scandal-plagued administration of his predecessor, “Silent Cal” worked to restore credibility to the U.S. President during his six-year reign (1923–29), which started when Warren Harding passed away while in office. 50 times in all, Coolidge used his veto power (30 pocket vetoes and 20 regulars, 4 of which Congress overrode).

Coolidge also showed his toughness with Congress as he pushed for government non-interference in American business, which resulted in two vetoes of a bill that would have allowed the government to purchase farmers’ surplus crops, adding to the problems facing American farmers and contributing to the Great Depression.

Another noteworthy rejection of his was a bill to grant benefits to soldiers in World War I. Despite his ability to win over the American people to his way of thinking, his unwavering commitment to laissez-faire economics has been seen as a major cause of the Great Depression.

8. Gerald Ford (66)

Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt, 1904. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file number cph 3a53299)
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt, 1904. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file number cph 3a53299)

Gerald Ford, the only U.S. President to date to have not been chosen for the vice presidential or presidential post, used his veto power to show off his executive authority. He issued 66 vetoes in total—48 conventional and 18 pocket vetoes—of which 12 were reversed. As a Republican, he used his veto power harshly to block the Democratic-controlled Congress during a recession and high unemployment period, but he was successful in his goal of bringing down the inflationary effects of his predecessor’s policies. He vigorously campaigned to lower the budget deficit and restrict government expenditures.

But his unconditional pardon of Nixon for his part in the Watergate affair, as well as his gaffes of mispronouncing words and acting awkwardly, won

7. Ronald Reagan (78)

Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan, 1983. U.S. Department of Defense
Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan,
1983. U.S. Department of Defense

Reagan, hailed as a defender of limited government and conservative social programs, showed decisiveness and authority as a leader during his eight-year reign (1981–1989), amidst mounting domestic and international challenges. He attempted to stop Congress from expanding the federal government’s powers with his 78 vetoes (39 normal, 39 pocket, and 9 overruled), which occasionally prevented funding for discriminatory groups like Native Americans and environmental causes.

Congress overrode a significant veto to create the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which filled in the holes in earlier civil rights laws by making it clear that all beneficiaries of government funding were required to follow civil rights laws. Reagan maintained, however, that both parties of Congress worked together to approve the law, which gave the federal government excessive authority to interfere in private businesses.

6. Theodore Roosevelt (82)

Gerald Ford The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt,
1904. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file number cph 3a53299)

As the 26th U.S. President of the United States (1901–09), Theodore Roosevelt—a former Rough Rider and renowned trust-buster—constantly challenged big business to the benefit of the working class, asserted the nation’s superiority abroad, and made the United States seem like one of the most powerful powers in the world.

He was perhaps the first emboldened conservationist to hold the presidency, despite the fact that most of his 82 vetoes (42 regular, 40 pocket, and 1 overridden) had little to do with this extraordinary growth.

Nevertheless, some of them showed their passionate admiration for the environment and their charged support for its preservation. But this was only one of the aspects of his tenure in government that contributed to Teddy living forever as a sculpture at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.

5. Ulysses S. Grant (93)

Ulysses S. Grant
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Ulysses S. Grant Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C.

The renowned Union army general during the Civil War had some positive experiences in the Oval Office, despite the corruption of those around him casting a shadow over his eight-year term (1869–77).

One such instance is his record-breaking 93 vetoes (45 regular, 48 pocket, and 4 overridden). Congress worked to increase the quantity of greenbacks in circulation in order to provide the suffering American populace with more legal tender during the severe economic downturn that began in 1873.

But Grant, perhaps swayed by his wife and some of his advisors, overturned the so-called Inflation Bill, a move that many historians see as asserting to downplay the gravity of the subsequent quarter-century monetary crisis.

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower (181)

ranklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933. Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952. Fabian Bachrach

Eisenhower left the military after 37 years of service and ran for U.S. President , gaining two terms in office (1953–1961) after capturing the hearts of Americans with his victories in World War II. Eisenhower immediately realized the value of the veto, particularly in the last years of his administration when Congress started spending money that he perceived as being unduly on domestic matters. Eisenhower was the first president to have to deal with three Congresses controlled by the opposing party.

One notable veto, out of his 181 (73 regular, 108 pocket, and 2 overruled), prevented an extension to the Federal Pollution Control Act, a statute he had previously signed into law and which would have increased funding for wastewater treatment. He asserted that water contamination was “a peculiarly local scourge,” and since he supported a smaller federal government, the states should bear the responsibility. A subsequent Kennedy administration bill approved something similar.

3. Harry S. Truman (250)

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman, 1945.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZ62-13033)
Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman, 1945. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZ62-13033)

After serving as vice U.S. President for just 82 days, during which he met with U.S. President Roosevelt just twice, Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency (1945–1953) during the Second World War.

He did “his damnedest” to maintain American dominance in the aftermath of the war as the Soviet Union, an emerging superpower, was challenged by its spread of communism. In his first term in office, Truman used a total of 250 vetoes (180 normal, 70 pocket, and 12 overruled) to fight back against a Republican-led Congress that opposed the New Deal.

As the country was on the verge of an inflation disaster, he persistently opposed proposed tax cuts that he felt disproportionately benefited the wealthiest. He did not, however, always prevail against Congress. Notably, Congress overrode one of his vetoes in 1947 in order to pass the Taft-Hartley Act, which placed severe restrictions on organized labor in a number of areas.

In 1950, Congress overrode Truman’s veto of the McCarran Act, which gave the federal government the authority to arrest any citizen who appeared to be acting in a subversive manner and required all communist organizations to register with the government, in response to the growing fear of communism’s spread. Though most Americans supported the later law, Truman recognized the potential for misuse, which came to pass as a result of McCarthyism.

2. Grover Cleveland (584)

Cleveland, Grover
Grover Cleveland.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Grover Grover Cleveland. Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C.

Cleveland is the only person to have held the office of U.S. President of the United States for two consecutive terms (1885–89 and 1893–97), yet despite the well-known corruption of Gilded Age politics, his passionate support of limited government and honest politics carried through to both terms.

He often overruled Congress’s attempts to misuse the pension system that was put in place during Lincoln’s presidency (584 total vetoes; 346 regular, 238 pocket, 7 overturned), preventing public funds from being wasted on fictitious claims of battlefield injuries. In addition, he famously vetoed a bill that would have provided a $10,000 subsidy to Texas farmers experiencing a severe drought in order to prevent, in his opinion, the reliance of the American people on the federal government.

While his support for small-government ideals helped him gain respect in his first successor’s raid on the federal treasury, which he had amassed throughout his tenure, it caused an unparalleled economic catastrophe that the American people begged him to repair with government action. In the aftermath of his second tenure, he finally faced disownment from his own party for his refusal to comply.

1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (635)

ranklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3c17121)
ranklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3c17121)

In what has to this day been one of the most contentious administrations in American history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States (1933–1945), broke records and disregarded norms. He was the first (and only) president to be elected four times, defying George Washington’s norm of only two terms in office. He also unprecedentedly increased the authority of the executive branch by using the veto power, imposing vetoes a total of 635 times (372 regular, 263 pocket, and 9 overridden).

When he rejected a tax plan in 1944 that he believed would mainly benefit the wealthy and powerful, he openly defied the unspoken rule that one should never veto a revenue item.

Additionally, he made his decision on a number of While some “veto giants” like Cleveland restricted their veto power to a single arena, others, including those involving homing pigeons, immigrant expulsion, national security, parking meters, and credits for beer wholesalers, covered a wider range of topics. Finally, FDR made history by being the first president to personally read a veto message aloud to a joint session of Congress, indicating his intention to make members aware of his watchfulness over the body’s actions.

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