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Kiewiet and McCubbins: Presidential influence on Congressional appropriations decisions

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Kiewiet and McCubbins. 1988. Presidential influence on Congressional appropriations decisions. American Journal of Political Science 32 (Aug): 713-736..


(see Abstract)

Reasons that explain the asymmetrical influence of the veto:

  • Constitutional limitations on the veto.
  • The reversionary expenditure leve (status quo reversion point)l contained in the appropriations process.


Description: The model consider the preferences of three key members of the legislature: the one third quantile member (1), the median voter (2), and the two-thirds quantile member (3). Their ideal appropriations are ordered X1<X2<X3. A simple majority of members is required to pass a bill, and two-thirds to override a veto. B represents the funding level Congress adopts. The president's ideal appropriation is P.

Implication: The president vetoes appropriation bills only when he prefers lower spending than that adopted by Congress. If he prefers more, the veto cannot make him better off, and so we do not expect him to use it.


Presidential requests have much more influence upon final appropriations figures when the president desires to spend less than Congress than when he would rather spend more.

The threat of a veto, if credible, will induce Congress to incorporate the president's preferences into legislation.

The absence of vetos does not imply a lack of presidential influence over appropriations, it means that the president has anticipated congressional preferences and that Congress has accommodated his wishes. (OBSERVATIONAL EQUIVALENCE)


  • X: Whether the president is in a favorable position (Whether the president's budget request is less than what Congress appropriates)
  • Reversion point: If the president vetos a bill, the reversion point is either (1) the previous year's appropriation or (2) the Congressional appropriation that was vetoed, whichever is less.
  • Y: The amount appropriated.


  • They don't look for use of the veto; they look at how close the Congressional appropriation was to the president's request.
  • The president does have stronger influence when he wants less than Congress. Strangely, he does still have some influence when he wants more--and he should have none.


  • The president can move public opinion, thus have an affect