The nation, which has often good grounds for distrusting Congress, a body liable to be moved by sinister private influences, or to defer to the clamor of some noisy section outside, looks to the man of its choice to keep Congress in order. (quoted in Cameron 2000, 17)
In this chapter, we provide a broad overview of the veto politics literature, as well as the literature on presidential influence in Congress. Rather than provide an exhaustive review of these vast literatures, our purpose is to provide (1) sufficient background for understanding the nature of the relationship between the branches, and (2) perspectives on presidential influence. As such, our discussion is sufficiently cursory and meant to aid in understanding the empirical chapters that follow.
Vetoing or signing a bill are not the only courses of action open to a president—presidents may alsothreaten to veto legislation.1 In some respects, a veto threat is an attractive option for presidents: it imposes few short-term costs on presidents (talk is cheap), and a veto threat can positively influence (from the president’s perspective) congressional action by invoking an “anticipated response” on the part of Congress.
1 Much of the literature on the veto focuses on the circumstances under which presidents exercise the veto power (see, for instance, Copeland 1983; Hoff 1991; Lee 1975; Rohde and Simon 1985). Using annual veto counts, the primary explanatory variables are composed of factors that lie outside of presidential control (party control of Congress, rate of unemployment, year within term, etc.). Focusing on individual bills, Gilmour (2002) argued that, controlling for external events, individual presidents develop different veto behaviors; the individual policy and strategic choices of presidents play an important role in whether the veto is exercised. Because our focus is presidential influence, we do not provide an exhaustive review of this related, but somewhat tangential, literature.