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Veto Rhetoric
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Veto Rhetoric
A Leadership Strategy for Divided Government

First Edition


June 2023 | 240 pages | CQ Press
"While veto threats have a long history, presidents have come to be more reliant on this bargaining tool in the last few decades. Veto Rhetoric therefore serves as a nice companion to Sam Kernell's classic study, Going Public, which documented a similar trend with regards to presidential public appeals. Kernell's current study will no doubt once again lead presidential scholars to rethink how they understand and conceptualizing presidential-congressional relations."
- Joel Sievert, Texas Tech University

In Veto RhetoricSamuel Kernell offers a fresh, more sanguine perspective to understanding national policy making in this era of divided government. Contrary to the standard “separation of powers” representation of the veto which deals presidents a weak "take it or leave it” hand, Kernell shows that veto rhetoric forces Congress to pay careful heed of the president’s objections early in deliberations as legislation is forming. Moreover, the book introduces original statistical analysis to test the argument and extends previously reported analyses to include the Biden presidency. Veto Rhetoric will change the way students of Congress and the presidency assess their respective roles in making national policy. 

 
Chapter 1. Veto Threats’ Questionable Effectiveness
Veto Rhetoric's Suspect Status

 
Conclusion

 
Data Appendix

 
 
Chapter 2. Veto Threat Bargaining (VTB)
Veto Rhetoric as Focal Coordination

 
Fashioning a Threat Signal

 
Veto Rhetoric's Three Audiences

 
The Bicameral Setting

 
The Game

 
Politicians Solicit Veto Threats

 
Conclusion

 
 
Chapter 3. Statements of Administration Policy
SAPs as the Primary Venue for Veto Rhetoric

 
SAPs and the Center of Veto Bargaining

 
Conclusion

 
Appendix

 
Data Appendix

 
 
Chapter 4. Veto Threats as Public Events
Establishing the Credibility of Veto Rhetoric

 
Public Opinion toward Vetoes and Threats

 
Conclusion

 
Appendix

 
Data Appendix

 
 
Chapter 5. Veto Rhetoric and the Legislative Process
House Rules Governing Floor Deliberations

 
Veto Rhetoric and Filibusters

 
Veto Threats and Roll Call Voting

 
Veto Signals Change Preferences

 
Conclusion

 
Appendix

 
 
Chapter 6. Veto Rhetoric’s Impact on Legislation
Bills as Bundles and Provisions

 
Mapping Changes in Legislation

 
Hypotheses

 
Data and Methods

 
Findings: Does Veto Rhetoric Matter

 
Conclusion

 
Appendix

 
Data Appendix

 
 
Chapter 7. A Leadership Strategy for Divided Government
 
References

"Perhaps the main strength of the book is its accessibility. Sophisticated games and models give weight to the argument. But at base, it offers a sensible explanation for how legislators and presidents communicate, cooperate, and behave. The theory is not simplistic, but it is told in a way that makes it simple to grasp. Presidents want to shape policy. Their best means of doing so is by uniting their own party behind them in supporting their veiled or clear veto rhetoric. Often, it works. Moreover, because presidents are repeat players in Washington, they need to be consistent on policy, resolute in their public threats, and prudent when knowing when to accept a good deal from Congress. These lessons seem like common sense, but the evidentiary support behind them should change the way we study inter-branch relations and party politics."

Dave Bridge
Baylor University
Congress and The Presidency

Too often the examination of vetoes is limited to looking at the cases where negotiations between the president and Congress breakdown and a veto is issued. Veto Rhetoric provides exciting new evidence on veto threats by examining a rich, original dataset of presidential statements of administration policy in addition to narrative evidence based on archival research at numerous presidential libraries. Scholars and students interested in the presidency, Congress, and the policymaking process will all benefit from reading this valuable contribution.

Brandice Canes-Wrone
Stanford University

While veto threats have a long history, presidents have come to be more reliant on this bargaining tool in the last few decades. Veto Rhetoric therefore serves as a nice companion to Sam Kernell's classic study, Going Public, which documented a similar trend with regards to presidential public appeals. Kernell's current study will no doubt once again lead presidential scholars to rethink how they understand and conceptualizing presidential-congressional relations.

Joel Sievert
Texas Tech University

I have long been intrigued by the tradeoffs between the credibility and flexibility of commitments, in particular, and I haven't seen anything as clear as Veto Rhetoric's discussion in the economics or game theory literatures.  

Vincent Crawford
University of California, San Diego

Sage College Publishing

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