Is Pelosi Planning on Picking Bush’s Pocket?

Remember Bush’s surly claimed pocket veto on military pay raises, just in time for New Years? We pretty much dismissed its claim to legality when it happened (See especially PhoenixWoman’s link, which has gotten far too little attention for its apparent precedent on precisely the issues in question). But now I’m increasingly intrigued by the political possibilities, particularly with the news that Speaker Pelosi is calling bullshit on Bush’s claim to have used a pocket veto specifically to reject the bill.

The White House on Monday said it was pocket-vetoing the measure, but a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the president cannot use such a measure when Congress is in session. The distinction over whether the president can pocket-veto the bill is important because such a move would prevent Congress from voting on an override.

Congress vigorously rejects any claim that the president has the authority to pocket-veto this legislation, and will treat any bill returned to the Congress as open to an override vote,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi. He said the Speaker is keeping all legislative options on the table. [my emphasis]

As soon as Bush announced he planned to veto the bill, I grew enticed by what some of those "legislative options" might be–and Nancy’s cry of "bullshit" makes me even more enticed.

As I see it, if Congress insists that Bush could not have pocket vetoed the bill, then the first thing it should do is aim for an override. As the Hill points out, Democrats are likely to lose the huge majorities who supported the bill last month. But if they can credibly show that they might be able to override Bush’s veto, things would get interesting.

See, I believe that Bush has now placed Democrats in the position he has tried to place himself in with his threat to veto all the appropriations bills. That is, if Bush vetos the appropriations bills, then that’ll put the Democrats in a position where they need to negotiate quickly, or risk shutting down the government (Kagro X laid this all out in a couple of posts last September, but I can’t seem to find them right away).

The position Democrats are in now is similar: They can do a whip count, and if they’ve proven they have the votes, then can threaten to simply override the veto and negotiate from there.

Or, more tantalizingly, they can re-open the whole Defense Appropriations bill. All of it.

Whereas, in December, they were in the position that required compromise (well, that’s what my Senator, Carl Levin keeps claiming, much to my dismay). But now that Bush is responsible for the delay–and particularly the delay of the pay raise to the military–that gives the Democrats a bit more leeway to force Bush to negotiate. Furthermore, this whole fight is going to happen in a post-Iowa Caucus environment, in which turnout in a critical swing state is projected to massively favor Democrats.

Recent polls have shown the percentage of Iowa independents planning to participate in the Democratic caucuses is far higher than those who say they will caucus for Republicans. Turnout for the Democrats is projected to be higher than Republicans, perhaps double.

While the media doesn’t seem to be talking about the implications of that, yet, I imagine any self-respecting Republican with long-term career goals might get the hint offered by two-to-one turnout for Democrats in Iowa. That is, Republicans may face a bigger blowout loss than they did in 2006, even in spite of all the Democrats’ blathering. Such a turnout may, finally, change the atmosphere in DC.

Of course, all this assumes that Nancy may suddenly decide to play hardball after a year of slow pitch floaters (and that folks like my Senator would stop dropping fly balls in the outfield). All of this assumes that Nancy will take this opportunity to turn tables on Bush. Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed with those slow pitch floaters before.

But the possibility to turn this ridiculous pocket veto claim (again, make sure to read PW’s link) into a real position of strength is quite tantalizing.

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48 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    “Here you go Charlie Brown. I’ll hold the football for you right here. Now you take the hardest running kick at it you can”.

    Yours Truly,
    Lucy Van Pelosi

  2. merkwurdiglieber says:

    What an opportunity to call his bluff! This could be a large mistake
    that could yield a gain for us if, big if, Pelosi persues it.

  3. nomolos says:

    Pelosi will figure out a way to allow her boyfriend georgie to win. I have no faith that any of the dem leaders will do anything “for the people” but I have absolute faith that they will do all the can “for the money”.

  4. emptywheel says:

    Okay already!!! I’m way too optimistic. But will you at least indulge my fantasy for the next week or so that a huge Dem turnout in IA might spark some life into our Congressional Dems?? Or at least deflate the Congressional Republicans??

    • merkwurdiglieber says:

      One would think the Dems compelled to do it to avoid a claim of precedent
      for this tactic. Asleep at the wheel as an operating method will not cut it
      with this desparate crowd. I hope you are right, but…

    • nomolos says:

      OK. If Edwards wins Iowa I will grant you that the dem “leaders” will have to at least consider putting opposition back on the table. If either corporate candidate wins then it will business as usual and fuck the people.

      • bmaz says:

        You are not in luck then. A growing number of the candidates seem to be aiming their “Second Choice” loyalties to Obama. Kucinich already has, Richardson too from what I understand and Biden leaning heavily in that direction. It would appear that the first choice ballots may not win it for Obama, but the second choicers are sure lining up that way. That is not a good sign for Edwards.

        • nomolos says:

          Yeah I see that from the loser candidates the question is why obama. I can see that he is at least not clinton but obama is just a black male clinton. I don’t get it.

          • emptywheel says:

            I’ve seen several reasons mentioned. 1) strategy, in the case of Richardson, 2) Obama’s earlier anti-war stance (prob in teh case of Kooch). In the case of Biden, I would think he and Obama are closer on the Foeign policy front.

        • looseheadprop says:

          A growing number of the candidates seem to be aiming their “Second Choice” loyalties to Obama. Kucinich already has

          To riff on what Bmaz said: How many times on FDl and elsewhere have I heard people getting all squixhy about how Kusinich was hte real deal and how we should just listent o what he is saying and how he wasn’t a cynical politiican like the rest of them?

          From the beginning I have thought this guy was just some ego maniac SAYING what it was obvious folks were hugry to hear.

          Well, he just proved me right, being the first to cut a backroom deal and through his support to a corperatist frontrunner. I cannot wait until the detail of that deal get leaked.

          • emptywheel says:

            Back when he did the same for Edwards in 04, Edwards was much more of a corporatist than Dean.

            It may be ego, but this is not a new development from Kooch.

      • emptywheel says:

        Look, if we get the kind of turnout they’re predicting, we stand to pick up so many seats in Congress–particularly the Senate–that there will be little excuse to triangulate.

        Plus, we honestly don’t know how any of these three are going to govern. While I accept thta Bill’s history may suggest we’ll get more of the same, there is a pretty dramatic difference between where Edwards was as a Senator and where he is now.

        Given that fact, I’m most interested in finding a way to at least 60 in the Senate (which would be a landslide), because it’ll mean whatever President we elect will be more liberal.

  5. MadDog says:

    I’m questioning if Nancy has to do anything.

    If Junya did not actually veto the bill by his signature, and the bill has not been “pocket-vetoed” by reason of the Senate still being in session, then that bill automatically becomes law.

    If which case, there is no reason to attempt to override.

    So, what is it? Did Junya actually veto the bill by signature or not?

    • looseheadprop says:

      If Junya did not actually veto the bill by his signature, and the bill has not been “pocket-vetoed” by reason of the Senate still being in session, then that bill automatically becomes law.

      If which case, there is no reason to attempt to override.

      OK, so it’s not just me. I was thinking that as I read this piece and then doubted myself b/c you’d THINK the Pseaker of the Frekin’ House would know these rules better’n me.

      But I guess not.

      MadDog wins the prize today.

    • nomolos says:

      If Junya did not actually veto the bill by his signature, and the bill has not been “pocket-vetoed” by reason of the Senate still being in session, then that bill automatically becomes law.

      Is there a period of time after junya decides not to sign that it automatically becomes law?

      • MadDog says:

        Yes, it is my understanding (as a layperson) that the bill becomes law after 10 days (excluding Sundays) if:

        1. The President doesn’t veto it explicitly.
        2. Or the President doesn’t sign it and the Congress has not adjourned.

        My understanding of a Pocket Veto is that the Congress has adjourned and the President merely puts the bill in his pocket and doesn’t explicitly sign anything be it an Approval or a Veto.

  6. perris says:

    oach, I hadn’t thought we were being played again by pelosi’

    man I am really starting to hate her…if she pulls this football away it’s gonna really hurt

  7. perris says:

    Congress vigorously rejects any claim that the president has the authority to pocket-veto this legislation, and will treat any bill returned to the Congress as open to an override vote,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi. He said the Speaker is keeping all legislative options on the table. [my emphasis]

    I have a better idea then “leaving all options on the table”

    I think she should proceed as if there was no veto, do not even give this the play or discussion, ignore the veto since it’s mute while they are in session, call the bill passed and make him challenge them rather then them challenging him

    • WilliamOckham says:

      The problem is that Bush also returned the bill to the House with objections as he’s supposed to do in the case of a real veto. If the Congress does nothing, Bush can claim that he properly vetoed the bill by returning to the House.

      • MadDog says:

        But does the returned bill actually say that Junya vetoed it by his signature? A mere disagreement with part or parts of its contents shouldn’t suffice to call it a “veto”.

        If so, then the Congress legislative response would be an override attempt.

        If Junya didn’t actually state that the bill was vetoed and do so explicitly and with his signature, then it ain’t been vetoed.

        And as for the state of the Pocket Veto, see the Louis Fisher. Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers and his CRS Report for Congress entitled “The Pocket Veto:. Its Current Status“.

      • emptywheel says:

        WO is right. A very smart law professor I know judged that what has happened, irresptive of Bush’s claims, is a traditional veto. Which means the choices, for Nancy, are either to try for an override, or to do whatever she wants in an overhaul, that may or not be limited to Bush’s desired change.

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t necessarily take issue with the conclusion of your law professor friend; however, that conclusion presupposes that Bush intended a veto and did so. I wonder about that. Everybody here is assuming that the answer to the question is the key; what if, to Bush, it is about the controversy, not the answer. This was a bill the Administration had signed off on, not only themselves, but gave the word to their lemming minions to go ahead and support. Then all of a sudden this mess. What if the only thing the WH really has in mind is creating a clusterfuck and then playing it to their PR and semantic advantage, irrespective of how Pelosi and Reid play it out?

          • nomolos says:

            This was a bill the Administration had signed off on, not only themselves, but gave the word to their lemming minions to go ahead and support. Then all of a sudden this mess. What if the only thing the WH really has in mind is creating a clusterfuck and then playing it to their PR and semantic advantage, irrespective of how Pelosi and Reid play it out?

            You mean they are playing reid/pelosi for suckers? Surely not!

    • billinturkey says:

      think she should proceed as if there was no veto, do not even give this the play or discussion, ignore the veto since it’s mute while they are in session, call the bill passed and make him challenge them rather then them challenging him

      Hmmm – if the paychecks don’t arrive/get signed it wd presumably be the Dems who wd have to go to court, though?

  8. BayStateLibrul says:

    Pelosi should let the veto stand, so George can fire the 150,000 civilians at military bases which he promised at Turkey Time.
    Barney Frank and Dick Durbin in 2008.

  9. looseheadprop says:

    all legislative options on the table

    She’s just using that particular phrase to toy with my heart.*g*

    • bmaz says:

      It is either that, or we woke up to a whole new political world on January 1 and the Democratic leaders now have spine and have learned to employ real tactical planning to cleaning up our government; including impeachment. Personally, every cent of my money, and my daughter’s piggy bank, is on the toying with you explanation…

  10. klynn says:

    O/T EW

    I left a link to a government doc on the Helgerson post. I was not sure if you’ve read this one or not. It’s a bit interesting considering the date.

    It’s titled: The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Improve the Sharing of Intelligence and Other Information Report No. 04-10, December 2003, Office of the Inspector General.

    Here:
    http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/repor…..dings3.htm

    • MadDog says:

      Great catch!

      And Jane Harmon is hugging Repugs as usual.

      I did find this part of her statement to Scott Muller, CIA General Counsel interesting:

      You discussed the fact that there is a videotape of Abu Zubaydah following his capture that will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry.

      (My Bold)

      So it was Jane’s belief that the CIA was intending all along to destroy the Torture Tapes!

      That doesn’t comport with what Mikey Hayden and others have led many to believe.

      In this instance, I’m going with Jane.

  11. brendanscalling says:

    Pelosi is going to back down. That’s what she does. Like her counterpart Reid, she talks big and does little.

  12. BooRadley says:

    OfT, but if Nancy is so thoroughly fixated on earmarks corrupt (which she appears to be) why did she bother to nominate Murtha for Majority leader?

    Bush has completely exposed his political flanks and the thought that she won’t take full advantage is really depressing.

  13. PJEvans says:

    georgia10 at Kos has a story up about the government putting off bonus payments to the military. Seems without this bill they can’t afford the payments, so they’re sticking in a clause that they’ll pay later, if they have the money then.

    More of ‘how Bush supports the military’, by not doing it.

  14. DeadLast says:

    EW,are you sure they need to veto? If congress was not in recess, and a bill sits for 10 days without being signed, it becomes law. I am not sure if that holds for appropriations bills, but I believe that is the law per the consititution.

  15. DeadLast says:

    Article 1.7 of the Constitution says:

    “If any bill shall not be returned to the President within 10 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, unless the Congress by thier adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.”

    If, as asserted, the House was not adjourned, the President could have “returned it.” Thus, it is law. Even Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito can figure this one out. It just goes to remind everyone that school wasn’t one of W’s strengths.

    • Hmmm says:

      Different situation in this case, as the House is out of session and the Senate is in session. So while Congress (as defined in case law cited by PhoenixWoman in a previous thread) is in session, the House is not. On the other hand, the House has kept the desk open specifically in order that there would be somewhere to which to return unsigned bills — as they were — but it seems (also per previous threads) there is no precedent nor case law to legitimate the keeping-the-desk-open maneuver.

      It all looks very messy to me, as in: invites a trip to Court for whomever gets frustrated first. Now that the situation’s arisen, it would be bad if the D’s negotiated a resolution to this in such as way as to leave intact any precedent that tilts in the Executive’s favor.

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