The president and Congress work together to pass legislation in the United States. For a bill to become a law, it has to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate before reaching the White House. When the bill reaches the White House, the president has four possible actions to perform on the bill.

Sign into Law

When the bill reaches the president, he can immediately sign it into law. The president is aware of any bill approaching the Oval Office and maintains regular communication with Congress as to its status. The president can view the proposed first draft of a bill and comment or suggest changes to it. Once the bill has been signed into law, it is submitted to the United States Archivist, who assigns the law a number, publishes its full text as a pamphlet and inserts it into the United States Code.


The president has the power to veto a bill if it doesn't meet with his approval. However, the bill must be vetoed in its entirety; line-item veto, or veto of specific portions of a bill, was ruled unconstitutional in 1998 by the Supreme Court in Clinton v. City of New York. Even if the president vetoes a bill, it can still pass into law if both the House of Representatives and the Senate pass the bill with a two-thirds majority. For the House, this is 288 votes; for the Senate, it is 67 votes.

Pocket Veto

The president has the power to indirectly veto a bill by holding it for 10 days -- not including Sunday -- after it reaches the Oval Office. If, during the 10-day waiting period, Congress adjourns its current session without receiving a response from the president, the bill is considered a pocket veto. Congress cannot override a pocket veto.

Pass by Default

If the president receives a bill and holds it for the 10-day waiting period while Congress is still in session, the bill becomes a law without the president’s signature per Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.

Related Articles