Vanderbilt Law Review

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Two recent exercises of the "pocket veto" by President Nixon have evoked controversy over the constitutional distribution of power and responsibility for negativing congressional actions! On December 14,1970, Congress sent to the President Senate Bill 3418, the Family Practice of Medicine Act. The bill had originated in the Senate, which recessed at the close of business on December 22, 1970, until 12:00 o'clock noon on December 28. Before recessing, unanimous consent had been given the Secretary of the Senate to receive messages from the President during this period. At about the same time House of Representatives Bill 3571, a private bill for the relief of Miloye M. Sokitch, passed Congress and was sent to the President on December 11. The House of Representatives, where the bill originated, recessed on December 22 until December 29. The President's constitutionally mandated ten-day period to consider each bill expired at midnight, December 25, for the public act, and at midnight, December 22, for the private bill, at which times the bills normally would have become law without his signature. The President withheld his signature from the bills, and, on December 24, issued memoranda of disapproval, maintaining that he had effected valid pocket vetoes. He contended that the Christmas recess of Congress was an adjournment within the terms of article I, section 7, clause 2 of the Constitution and that he therefore did not have a full ten days to consider either bill before Congress adjourned and prevented his return of the bills.'

Because of the intrinsic significance of any constitutional controversy, and because this particular dispute has evoked a heated congressional response as a part of the growing tug-of-war between Congress and the Executive," it is important that the latent ambiguities of article 1, section 7 of the Constitution be clarified. To that end, Senator Sam J. Ervin in 1971 introduced Senate Bill (S.) 164212 in an attempt to remove present uncertainties and to resolve conflicts between the Congress and the Executive. This article suggests that the best way in which the meaning of the disputed clause can be definitely determined is through the medium of such a statute, followed, perhaps, by a decision of the Supreme Court.