Veto

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The word veto comes from Latin and literally means I forbid. It is used to denote that a certain party has the right to unilaterally stop a certain piece of legislation. A veto thus gives unlimited power to stop changes, but not to adopt them.

The veto originated with the Roman tribunes who had the power to unilaterally refuse legislation passed by the Roman senate.

In the United States, the President is able to veto legislation passed by the Congress, but this right is not absolute. A two-thirds majority of both houses can adopt a law even against a presidential veto; however, if the proposed law has only a simple majority, the president's veto is decisive.

The veto power in the United States Constitution was derived from the British concept of Royal Assent. On April 5, 1792 President George Washington vetoed a bill designed to apportion representatives among the several states. This is the first time the presidential veto was used in the United States. The US Congress first overrode a presidential veto on March 3, 1845.

In the United Nations Security Council, the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, People's Republic of China, France and the United Kingdom) have veto power. If any of these countries votes against a proposal it is rejected, even if all of the other member countries vote in favor.

Typically, a veto applies to an entire piece of legislation. Some states in the United States have granted their governors the additional power of a line item veto. This allows them to veto or "cross out" only certain parts of the legislation, while allowing the rest to pass. Although details vary, it is not uncommon for a piece of legislation that has undergone a line item veto to be returned to the legislative body for final approval; they can either accept the amended legislation or decide not to pass it at all in its new form. The line item veto power has been controversial. Perhaps its most famous abuse was when Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, crossed out individual letters in a bill so that the remaining words comprised entirely different sentences, effectively introducing a new provision into the bill. Some states permit line item vetoes only in "appropriation bills," or bills granting money for the various government departments. The United States Congress passed a law authorizing the President to strike out up to three items of appropriation in a single bill, but the Supreme Court ruled this procedure unconstitutional in Clinton v. City of New York.

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