Last night Donald Trump announced that he’ll wait to sign the Republican tax bill until January 3rd, a surreal move considering that his own Republican Party just bent over backwards to hastily ram the bill through the House and Senate before the holidays. Palmer Report pointed out that Trump appears to be trying to gain leverage over the GOP, as it continues to take a series of sudden moves against him. This led several readers, and some pundits on social media, to suggest that a pocket veto could derail the bill over the holidays. In our Fact Check, we take a look at that scenario.
If a bill is delivered to the president and he still hasn’t signed it after ten days, it becomes law. However, if Congress is not in session when that ten day window expires, it’s considered a “pocket veto” and the bill dies. So what happens if Trump simply sits on the bill? That comes down to how the ten day window ends up being defined. It begins the day the bill is delivered to Trump, and it’s generally agreed upon that the ten day window does not include Sundays.
Trump says he won’t sign it until January 3rd. By our math, the tenth and final day of Trump’s window to sign the bill is January 2nd. According to the calendar posted on the U.S. Senate website, Congress is tentatively set to reconvene on January 3rd (link). So in theory, Trump could potentially attempt a pocket veto by refusing to sign the bill on January 2nd; the pocket veto would go into effect at the end of the day. By the 3rd, there would be no bill for him to sign. However, in practice, Congress often chooses an agent to receive veto messages during the recess, effectively making a pocket veto nearly impossible.
So while it’s technically and theoretically true on paper that Donald Trump could try to gain leverage over the Republican Congress by attempting a pocket veto, Congress can easily thwart him via a procedural move before leaving town for the holidays. If that procedural matter takes place at the end of the week, then no, Trump will probably not be able to pocket veto the tax bill. If Trump wants to kill the bill, he’ll have to actually veto it. That seems unlikely, considering it’s his own signature bill. Instead, it is our belief that he is trying to prevent the GOP from ousting him over the holidays by waiting until January to sign the bill.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report