Okanogan, Methow San Poelis Nespelem, Colville and Lake Indian Tribes or Bands of State of Washington v. United States the Pocket Veto Case, No. 565

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSANFORD
Citation73 L.Ed. 894,49 S.Ct. 463,64 A.L.R. 1434,279 U.S. 655
PartiesOKANOGAN, METHOW, SAN POELIS (or San Poil), NESPELEM, COLVILLE, AND LAKE INDIAN TRIBES OR BANDS OF STATE OF WASHINGTON v. UNITED STATES. THE POCKET VETO CASE
Decision Date27 May 1929
Docket NumberNo. 565

279 U.S. 655
49 S.Ct. 463
73 L.Ed. 894
OKANOGAN, METHOW, SAN POELIS (or San Poil), NESPELEM, COLVILLE, AND LAKE INDIAN TRIBES OR BANDS OF STATE OF WASHINGTON

v.

UNITED STATES. THE POCKET VETO CASE.

No. 565.
Argued March 11, 1929.
Decided May 27, 1929.

[Syllabus from pages 655-657 intentionally omitted]

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Messrs. Wm. S. Lewis, of Spokane, Wash., and A. L. Servan and John G. Carter, both of Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 657-661 intentionally omitted]

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Messrs. W. D. Mitchell, Atty. Gen., and Robert P. Reeder, Sp. Asst. to the Atty. Gen., for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 661-665 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Hatton W. Sumners, of Dallas, Tex., for Judiciary Committee of House of Representatives, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

[Argument of Amicus Curiae from pages 665-672 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Justice SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether, under the second clause in section 7 of Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States, a bill which is passed by both Houses of Congress during the first regular session of a particular Congress and presented to the President less than ten days (Sundays excepted) before the adjournment of that session, but is neither signed by the President nor returned by him to the house in which it originated, becomes a law in like manner as if he had signed it.

At the first session of the 69th Congress Senate Bill No. 3185, entitled 'An Act authorizing certain Indian tribes and bands, or any of them, residing in the State of Washington, to present their claims to the Court of Claims,' having been passed by both Houses of Congress and duly authenticated, was presented to the President on June 24, 1926. On July 3 the first session of the 69th Congress was adjourned, under a house concurrent resolution.1 The Congress was not again in session until the commencement of the second session on the first Monday in December.2 And neither House of Congress was in session on July 6-the tenth day after the bill had been presented to the President (Sundays excepted).

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The President neither signed the bill nor returned it to the Senate. And it was not published as a law.

Taking the position that the bill had become a law without the signature of the President, the Okanogan and other Indian tribes residing in the State of Washington in March, 1927, filed a petition in the Court of Claims setting up certain claims in accordance with the terms of the bill. The United States demurred to the petition. The court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the petition, on the ground that under the provisions of the Constitution the bill had not become a law.

In view of the public importance of the question presented we granted the petitioners a writ of certiorari. 278 U. S. 597, 49 S. Ct. 186, 73 L. Ed. —. And for like reason, at the request of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, we granted Mr. Sumners, a member of that Committee, leave to appear as amicus curiae. He has aided us by a comprehensive and forcible presentation of arguments against the conclusion of the court below.

The clause of the Constitution here in question reads as follows: 'Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not be shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. * * * If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like manner as if he had signed it,

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unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.' 3

The specific question here presented is whether, within the meaning of the last sentence-which we have italicized-Congress by the adjournment on July 3 prevented the President from returning the bill within ten days, Sundays excepted, after it had been presented to him. If the adjournment did not prevent him from returning the bill within the prescribed time, it became a law without his signature; but, if the adjournment prevented him from so doing, it did not become a law. This is unquestioned.

In support of the position that the adjournment did not prevent the President from returning the bill within the prescribed time, counsel for the petitioners and the amicus curiae urge that the only 'adjournment' which prevents the President from returning a bill within the prescribed time is the final adjournment of the Congress, terminating its legislative existence and making it impossible for the President to return the bill for its reconsideration; and that an adjournment of the first session of the Congress does not prevent the President from returning the bill within the prescribed time since the legislative existence of the Congress is not terminated, and he may within that time return the bill to the House in which it originated, although not then in session, by delivering it, with his objections, to the Secretary, Clerk, or other appropriate agent of that House, to be held by such agent

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and presented to the House when the Congress resumes its sitting at the next session-thereby enabling the Congress to proceed with the reconsideration of the bill as a part of the unfinished legislative business carried over from the first session. And it is also said, by counsel for the petitioners, that the 'ten days' allowed for the return of the bill, may be construed as meaning 'legislative days,' that is, days on which the Congress is in legislative session, and not calendar days, thereby enabling the President to return the bill within ten days, Sundays excepted, exclusive of all days on which the Congress was not in legislative session, even although, by reason of an adjournment, this period does not expire until after the Congress has resumed its legislative sittings at the second session.

In support of the position that Congress by the adjournment on July 3 prevented the president from returning the bill within the prescribed time, the Attorney General maintains that the word 'adjournment' includes an interim adjournment as well as the final adjournment at the end of a Congress; that the words 'ten days' mean calendar days, and not legislative days; that the President cannot return a bill with his objections to the House in which it originated except by returning it to the House while in session; that if, by reason of an adjournment taken by Congress within the prescribed time, the House in which the bill originated be not in session on the last of such days and the bill cannot be thus returned, the President is thereby prevented from returning the bill within the prescribed time; and that this view is supported by the practical construction given to the constitutional provision by the President through a long course of years, in which Congress has acquiesced.

No light is thrown on the meaning of the constitutional provision in the proceedings and debates of the Constitutional Convention; and there has been no decision of

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this Court dealing directly with its meaning and effect in respect to the precise question here involved. And while we have been cited to various decisions of state courts construing similar provisions in state constitutions, an examination of them discloses such a conflict of opinion-due in some part to differences in phraseology or their application to the procedure of the state legislatures-that, viewed as a whole, they furnish no substantial aid in the determination of the question here presented and a detailed consideration of them here would not be helpful. For that reason we shall cite in this opinion only some that seem most apposite and persuasive in their reasoning.

1. It is earnestly insisted by counsel for the petitioners and by the amicus curiae, as the underlying basis of their contentions, that since clause 2 gives the President merely a qualified negative over legislation and requires him, if he disapproves a bill, to return it with his objections to the House in which it originated so that Congress may have an opportunity to reconsider it in the light of such objections and pass it by a two-thirds vote of each House, the provision as to the return of a bill within a specified time is to be construed in a manner that will give effect to the reciprocal rights and duties of the President and of Congress and not enable him to defeat a bill of which he disapproves by a silent and 'absolute veto,' that is, a socalled 'pocket veto,' which neither discloses his objections nor gives Congress an opportunity to pass the bill over them. This argument involves a misconception of the reciprocal rights and duties of the President and of Congress and of the situation resulting from an adjournment of Congress which prevents the President from returning a bill with his objections within the specified time. This is illustrated in the use of the term 'pocket veto,' which does not accurately describe the situation, and is misleading in its implications in that it suggests that the

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failure of the bill in such case is necessarily due to the disapproval of the president and the intentional withholding of the bill from reconsideration. The Constitution in giving the President a qualified negative over legislation-commonly called a...

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145 practice notes
  • Al Bahlul v. United States, No. 11–1324
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 20, 2016
    ...the government can inform our determination of what the law is.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); The Pocket Veto Case , 279 U.S. 655, 689, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929) (“Long settled and established practice is a consideration of great weight in a proper interpretati......
  • Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, Docket No. 19-1540-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 3, 2019
    ...branches of Government," NLRB v. Noel Canning , 573 U.S. 513, 524, 134 S.Ct. 2550, 189 L.Ed.2d 538 (2014) (quoting The Pocket Veto Case , 279 U.S. 655, 689, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929) ).9 Here, the parties have not identified, and my own search has failed to unearth, any previous exa......
  • Ex parte Perry, NO. PD–1067–15
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • February 24, 2016
    ...See id.86 Tex. Const. art. IV, § 14.87 Id.88 Id.; Jessen Assoc. v. Bullock, 531 S.W.2d 593, 596 (Tex.1975).89 Tex. Const. art. IV, § 14.90 279 U.S. 655, 677–78, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929).91 Tex. Penal Code § 39.01(2)(A).92 Although we are holding that the present prosecution violate......
  • Made in the Usa Foundation v. U.S., No. CV-98-PT-1794M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • July 23, 1999
    ...Court has, in cases such as Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 109 S.Ct. 647, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989) and The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655, 689-90, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929), given considerable weight to the established practices of the political branches in their respective......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
143 cases
  • Al Bahlul v. United States, No. 11–1324
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 20, 2016
    ...the government can inform our determination of what the law is.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); The Pocket Veto Case , 279 U.S. 655, 689, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929) (“Long settled and established practice is a consideration of great weight in a proper interpretati......
  • Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, Docket No. 19-1540-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 3, 2019
    ...branches of Government," NLRB v. Noel Canning , 573 U.S. 513, 524, 134 S.Ct. 2550, 189 L.Ed.2d 538 (2014) (quoting The Pocket Veto Case , 279 U.S. 655, 689, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929) ).9 Here, the parties have not identified, and my own search has failed to unearth, any previous exa......
  • Ex parte Perry, NO. PD–1067–15
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • February 24, 2016
    ...See id.86 Tex. Const. art. IV, § 14.87 Id.88 Id.; Jessen Assoc. v. Bullock, 531 S.W.2d 593, 596 (Tex.1975).89 Tex. Const. art. IV, § 14.90 279 U.S. 655, 677–78, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929).91 Tex. Penal Code § 39.01(2)(A).92 Although we are holding that the present prosecution violate......
  • Made in the Usa Foundation v. U.S., No. CV-98-PT-1794M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • July 23, 1999
    ...Court has, in cases such as Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 109 S.Ct. 647, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989) and The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655, 689-90, 49 S.Ct. 463, 73 L.Ed. 894 (1929), given considerable weight to the established practices of the political branches in their respective......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Guiding Presidential Clemency Decision Making
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy Nbr. 18-2, July 2020
    • July 1, 2020
    ...in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad.”); The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655, 678 (1929); Consumer Energy Council of Am. v. FERC, 673 F.2d 425, 462 (D.C. 1982), summarily aff’d sub nom. Process Gas Consumers Grp. v. Consume......
  • The Separation-Of-Powers Counterrevolution.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...2412 (2020); Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564 (1959). (380.) See, e.g., Wright v. United States, 302 U.S. 583 (1938); The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (381.) See, e.g., INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983). (382.) See, e.g., Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998). (383.) See, e.g., Da......

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