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Updated by jjamison on Nov 26, 2017
Headline for Top 10 Presidential Votes
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Top 10 Presidential Votes


George Washington and the Apportionment Act

On April 5, 1792, George Washington exercised the first presidential veto of the Apportionment Act, which was a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would increase the number of seats for northern states. Washington vetoed the bill on constitutional grounds because the bill would allow for additional representatives from some states, which was higher than the number allowed in the Constitution. The importance of this veto was that it was the first presidential veto and there is always caution when such authority is first exercised and how it is perceived. Additionally, this veto protected the importance of the Constitution. Subsequently, Congress threw out the original apportionment bill and instituted a new one that apportioned representatives according to the population in the respective state.


Abraham Lincoln and the Wade-Davis Bil

On July 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln pocket vetoed the Wade-Davis Bill that was proposed for the reconstruction of the South, which made strict contingencies on the re-admittance to the Union for former Confederate states requiring a majority take the Ironclad Oath that they had never supported the Confederacy. Lincoln’s plan to mend the Union was less strict with the Ten Percent Reconstruction Plan, which allowed a state reintegration into the Union when 10% of the voters from that state had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and pledged to abide by emancipation. This was meant to mend the Union and shorten the war. If the Wade-Davis Bill had not been vetoed, there are many uncertainties as how our country would look today as a result of the Civil War. Would all 50 states be united?


Andrew Johnson and the Civil Rights Act of 1866

On March 27, 1866, Andrew Johnson attempted to veto the Civil Rights Act of 1866 twice, but two-thirds majority in each house of Congress passed it into law. It was the first United States federal law to define citizenship and pronounce that the law protects all citizens equally, which opened the door for the passage of related civil rights legislation throughout history.


Franklin Roosevelt and the Revenue Act of 1943

On February 24, 1944, in the middle of World War II, the House of Representatives overrode Franklin Roosevelt’s veto of the Revenue Act of 1943 with the Senate concurring. There was much legislation regarding revenue, but this was the first time in US History that Congress enacting a revenue law without presidential approval. Roosevelt had asked for $10.5 billion in fresh federal excise taxes (worth about $265 billion today) to help finance the war, but Congress cut the request to $2.1 billion. The significance of this veto override regarding a revenue law is that it reminds us of the importance of Congress and its power to make laws without presidential approval. Given the time period of the Great Depression and World War II and the need for new ideas and solutions, Franklin Roosevelt vetoed more bills than any other president during his three terms. Roosevelt became the first president to personally read a veto message to a joint session of Congress, which demonstrated his desire to let his awareness over Congress’s actions be known.


Richard Nixon and the Comprehensive Child Development Bill

The Comprehensive Child Development Bill of 1972 was passed by Congress, but vetoed by President Richard Nixon. If the bill had become law, it would have provided a multi-billion dollar national day care system. The bill was written to help parents to work and care for children, which would have alleviated the massive strain on our welfare system and greatly altered current issues. President Nixon’s reasoning was that the bill would implement a “communal approach to child rearing” that tied to broad-based fears of communism.


Richard Nixon and the Clean Water Act

On October 17, 1972, President Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act that was subsequently overridden by Congress. This is the primary federal law governing water pollution and is one of the Unites States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws. Nixon initially supported the act, but when Congress revealed the cost, he felt the benefit was not worth the cost. After Congress overrode his veto, Nixon impounded half of the money. This impoundment, along with many subsequent impoundments of congressionally authorized deficit spending, let to the Impoundment Act of 1974 that prohibited the President from withholding authorized funds from the various departments of government.


Ronald Reagan and the Clean Water Act in 1986

Ronald Reagan’s veto of the Clean Water Act in 1986, which was done by pocket veto and Congress was not given an opportunity to overturn the President’s veto because it sat for 10 days before expiring. There was a backlog of treatment plants that were financed mostly by the federal government since 1972 and President Reagan felt that it was time “for the federal government to reduce its expenditures and complete the transition from federal to state and local responsibility.”