President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday set a record for most veto threats as he promised to nix legislation to tweak Obamacare, change the Dodd-Frank Wall Street legislation, undo his deportation amnesty, and approve stronger sanctions to punish Iran for its nuclear program.
Mr. Obama issued two separate threats. The first one covered Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and his unilateral immigration actions.
“If a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it,” he said.
Later, Mr. Obama promised a veto on stiffer Iran sanctions, saying that if Congress were to impose them right now, it would derail his diplomatic efforts to negotiate with Iran and alienate U.S. allies that are part of the tricky talks, which would make it easier for Iran to skate on obligations.
“It doesn’t make sense,” the president said. “That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”
By threatening to veto at least four bills, Mr. Obama set a new record for an address to Congress.
Tuesday also marked his third State of the Union involving at least one veto threat, which is also a record.
President George W. Bush, President Clinton, President Reagan and President Truman each issued threats in two speeches, according to copies of all State of the Union messages cataloged at the American Presidency Project, a collection of data maintained by two political scientists.
Mr. Bush in 2008 said he would veto tax increases and then said he would veto spending bills that didn’t trim pork-barrel spending. And in 2004 he said he would veto changes to his Medicare prescription drug program.
Mr. Clinton in 1996 talked about having vetoed a GOP budget that would have cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, and then said he would veto legislation to let employers delay pension payments. And in 1994 he issued a threat to veto any health care bill that reached his desk without covering all Americans.
The earliest veto threat in a State of the Union came in 1857, when President Pierce said he would veto bills he hadn’t had enough time to examine thoroughly, and pleaded with Congress not to send him last-minute legislation at the end of a session.
Mr. Obama’s previous veto threats came in 2014, when he also vowed to veto stronger Iran sanctions; 2010, when he said he would veto spending bills that violated his proposed freeze on non-defense discretionary spending; and 2011, when he said he would veto spending bills that included earmarks.
A number of presidents asked Congress to approve a line-item veto power, either as an amendment to the Constitution or through legislation.