President's veto threats are on the rise

President Obama this year has threatened to veto nearly as many bills as he did in 2009 and 2010 combined. 

Obama has issued six veto threats in 2011, four of them this month. Working with a Democratic House and Senate over the last couple of years, Obama issued eight during the entire 111th Congress.

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With Republicans now controlling the House, Obama’s veto threats have picked up considerably. All of the bills Obama has targeted this year have come from the lower chamber. 

He has threatened to veto a measure that would repeal his healthcare reform law and an appropriations bill calling for $61 billion in spending cuts. Since March 8, the president has also threatened four GOP housing bills with vetoes. 

At times, Obama has stopped short of a veto threat. For example, the administration has stated that it “strongly opposes” cutting government funding for National Public Radio. He also opposes a bill that would end public financing of presidential campaigns. Both measures were attached to the House-passed bill calling for $61 billion in spending cuts. 

“The veto is an apparatus to stop legislation the administration opposes, but it’s also a bargaining maneuver,” said Mark Peterson, a professor of political science at UCLA.

Others say the White House is using its veto rhetoric with one eye on the election next year. 

“The administration is looking forward to the 2012 election. It has to make it clear to [liberal] partisans and activists that Obama isn’t being too cooperative with Republicans,” said Steve Farnsworth, assistant professor of communication at George Mason University.

With the Senate in Democratic hands, it’s unlikely Obama will end up vetoing many bills in the 112th Congress. More than 400 House-passed bills died in the Senate in 2010. In the last Congress, the president expressed “concerns” with many pieces of legislation and only vetoed two relatively low-profile bills. 

In comparison, former President George W. Bush vetoed one bill on stem cells between 2001 and 2006. After the Democrats captured Congress in 2007, Bush threatened to veto 11 bills during the first three months of that year.