50 equally telling as a measure of the presidents

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50 Equally telling as a measure of the president’s increasing role in the legislative process are the relatively few vetoes, approximately 4 percent, that have been overturned. What has occurred over time, of course, is an altered constitutional morality with regard to the proper use of the veto; a morality rooted in the conviction that the president is as much an authentic spokesman for the people, if not more so, than Congress. While the veto power certainly accords the president a major role in the legislative process, this role is, for the most part, a negative one. Modern presidents have assumed a far more positive role in the legislative process to an extent that many commentators have appropriately dubbed him “chief legislator.” While presidents in the Nineteenth Century, particularly “strong” presidents such as Jefferson and Jackson did initiate some legislation, they normally did so indirectly. While the initiation of legislative measures increased significantly under Theodore Roosevelt, these measures, following tradition, officially emanated from departments and agencies within his administration. Wilson embraced Roosevelt’s activism and moved beyond it to provide the model for modern presidents as legislative leaders by using his State of the Union address – which, breaking precedent, he personally delivered -- to outline his broad policy goals, later following through with special messages to Congress detailing means to these goals. Thus, he linked the presidency to both specific legislation and broad policy initiatives. In significant ways, Wilson set down the path followed by Franklin Roosevelt in advancing his New Deal programs. In more recent times, it has become standard operating procedure for presidents to set forth their legislative agenda; agendas which are normally given priority in the legislative process. The relationship between Congress, the president, and the bureaucracy is 48. The Federalist , 73/382. 49. See Edward Corwin, The President Office and Powers: 1787-1957 (New York: New York University Press, 1957), 279. 50. Franklin Roosevelt used the veto more than any other president, 635 times over slightly more than three terms. Cleveland used the veto 584 times over his two terms. Figures on the use of the veto power can be found at: < ; The numbers cited in the text include pocket vetoes. See the Constitution, Article I, section 7, paragraphs 2 and 3 for the provisions relating to the president’s veto powers. 278
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an extremely complicated one in large part due to political considerations, the distribution of power in Congress, and, inter alia, constituent concerns – matters tangentially related to the separation of powers in practice. On the whole, the emergence of the president as “chief legislator” has not aroused much concern, the more so since neither chamber of Congress is suited to assume a major role in initiating policies.
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  • Fall '16
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  • Separation of Powers

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