The Top 5 U.S. Presidents With The Most Vetoes

On April 5, 1792, George Washington was the first to cast a presidential veto, which rejected a congressional measure on apportioning state representatives.  Here are the top five U.S. Presidents with the most vetoes...

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt (635) Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States was the only president to be elected four times to the office, ignoring the normative two terms instilled by George Washington. He expanded the powers of the executive branch to unheard-of lengths, namely through his astounding use of the veto power, issuing vetoes a total of 635 times (372 regular, 263 pocket; 9 overridden). In 1944 he blatantly rebelled against the unwritten tradition of never vetoing a revenue measure when he turned down a tax bill that he felt only profited the greedy. He also expressed his volition on an array of issues such as homing pigeons, alien deportation, national defense, and parking meters. FDR became the first president to personally read a veto message aloud to a joint session of Congress, thus demonstrating his desire to let his vigilance over Congress’s actions be known to its members.

Grover Cleveland (584) Grover Cleveland is the only person to serve two discontinuous terms as president of the United States. Cleveland supported small government in the face of the notorious corruption of Gilded Age politics. He issued a total of 584 vetoes (346 regular, 238 pocket; 7 overridden) during his two terms.  In his most famous veto, he denied a $10,000 subsidy for Texas famers suffering from a severe drought to avoid, in his eyes, making the American people reliant upon the federal government. Although his adherence to small-government policies won him favor in his first term, the raid on the federal treasury that had been built by his first successor led to an unprecedented economic collapse, which the American people called on him to mend with government intervention. He refused to do so and was eventually disowned by his own party following his second term.

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Harry S. Truman (250) Thrust into the presidency during the Second World War after only an 82-day term as vice president, Harry Truman did “his damnedest” to retain American superiority in the embers of the war-torn world. During his first elected term, Truman was forced to combat an anti-New Deal, Republican-led Congress with a total of 250 vetoes (180 regular, 70 pocket; 12 overridden). He continually vetoed proposed tax cuts that he believed heavily favored the wealthy while the nation was on the brink of an inflation crisis. However, he did not always win against Congress. Notably, in 1950 Congress passed the McCarran Act over Truman’s veto, enabling the federal government to arrest any suspiciously subversive citizens as well as forcing all communist organizations to register with the federal government. Although the majority of the country favored the bill, Truman saw its potential for abuse, which was eventually realized in the aftermath of McCarthyism.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (181) Eisenhower served two terms as president from 1953 through 1961 and spent these years dealing with a Congress and Supreme Court controlled by the Democrats. Eisenhower learned quickly the importance of the veto, namely in the final years of his presidency when Congress began to spend what he saw as excessively on domestic issues. Of his 181 vetoes (73 regular, 108 pocket; 2 overridden), one significant veto denied an extension to the Federal Pollution Control Act (a bill he previously signed into law), which would have allotted more funds to wastewater treatment. He claimed that water pollution was “a uniquely local blight,” leaving the burden to the states as he favored a smaller federal government.

Ulysses S. Grant (93) Grant served eight years as president from 1869 to 1877 and vetoed 93 bills (45 regular, 48 pocket; 4 overridden), an unprecedented number up to that time. In the face of a devastating economic depression that started in 1873, Congress sought to add more greenbacks to the American circulation, thus increasing the amount of legal tender available to the suffering American population. However, Grant struck down the so-called Inflation Bill, an action that many historians have claimed to diminish the severity of the ensuing currency crisis of the following quarter century.