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Legislative Process: Presidential Action

How a bill becomes a law in the US, with the government documents associated with each step of the process

Final Action


When a bill is passed by both houses it is sent to the President to be signed. The President may sign it, veto it, or take no action.

When a President comments on and refuses to sign a bill it is known as a veto. A vetoed bill may return to Congress for reconsideration, where Congress may override it by a 2/3 vote in both houses.

If the President does not act within 10 days the bill automatically becomes law. However, if Congress adjourns during those 10 days the bill is vetoed in a "pocket veto".


Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents
1993-present online through GPO Access;
tip: for the actual veto message, not just news conferences, search for words like "Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval"
1992 - present in Perkins Ref. US, older issues in Docs Stacks AE 2.109:
Presidential addresses, communications, interviews, proclamations and nominations, and meetings with foreign dignitaries.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States
In HeinOnline database--see US Presidential Library; online via GPO Access from 1992; Perkins Ref US AE 2.114: (1984-present) and GS 4.113: (1929-1983).
Same content as the Weekly Compilation above, compiled after each term of office.
American Presidency Project
Includes Public Papers, State of the Union data, and more.

Subject Guide

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Ryan Denniston

Perkins 233
PO Box 90175
Durham, NC 27708
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