What ever happened to the Nixon Pocket veto case? This is the case where members of congress sued over President Nixon's recess veto of a spending bill.


2 Answers 2


It looks like you're referring to Kennedy v. Sampson.

The DC District Court heard the case (364 F. Supp 1075 (1973)) and granted summary judgment to the plaintiff Sen. Edward Kennedy, holding that the veto was invalid and that the bill had become law.

The case was appealed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (511 F.2d 430 (1974)), which affirmed.


The New York Times reported on the veto which I think that the question is referring to on December 31, 1970.

The Congressional Research Service reported on the issue on March 30, 2001 and the pertinent part regarding the litigation over that pocket veto was as follows:

President Richard Nixon, on December 24, 1970, exercised a pocket veto over the Family Practice of Medicine Bill. The bill had passed the Senate 64 to 1 and the House 346 to 2, providing what appeared to be overwhelming majorities for any veto that Nixon might exercise. Both chambers adjourned on December 22 for the Christmas holidays. The Senate returned on December 28 and the House the following day. Not counting December 27 (a Sunday), the Senate was absent for four days and the House for five.

Unlike the 1929 case, Nixon’s action involved a short adjournment during a session rather than a lengthy adjournment at the end of a session. A district court held that the Christmas adjournment had not prevented Nixon from returning the bill to Congress as a regular veto. The bill therefore became law on December 25, 1970, 10 days after it had been presented to the President.

When an appellate court upheld this decision the following year, it appeared that pocket vetoes would be impermissible during any intra-session adjournment. The D.C. Circuit ruled that an intra-session adjournment of Congress “does not prevent the President from returning a bill which he disapproves so long as appropriate arrangements are made for the receipt of presidential vetoes during the adjournment.” The Justice Department decided not to appeal this case to the Supreme Court. The bill was eventually printed as a public law (P.L. 91-696) and backdated to December 25, 1970, which marked the end of the 10-day period provided in the Constitution for executive review of bills.

Because of the brief interval between the first and second sessions (which can be shorter than an intra-session adjournment), inter-session pocket vetoes also seemed suspect. Under this logic, pocket vetoes would be available only with final adjournment of a Congress at the end of the second session.

The Department of Justice issued a memorandum formalizing its take on the meaning of the case in a February 10, 1982 memorandum.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .