The period between a U.S. president and Congress being elected in November of an election year, and the start of their terms the following January, is known as the lame-duck session.

If a bill is passed by Congress during the lame-duck session, can the incoming President subsequently veto it?

For example, if a bill implementing the Trans-Pacific Partnership is passed during the 2016-2017 lame duck session, could the new U.S. President veto it?

2 Answers 2


Any legislation passed by the lame-duck Congress will already have been disposed of by the time the new President takes office. Most likely, the outgoing President will have some opinion on the bill and will have chosen either to sign or veto it. However, even if the old President takes no action, the bill will not reach the new President's desk. The reason why can be found in Article I, Section 7 of the US Constitution:

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Since the Congressional term ends on 3 January, and the new Presidential term begins on 20 January, as provided by Amendment 20, the ten-day limit for any bill passed by the old Congress will have passed (since Sundays are excluded, such a bill could last until 15 January at the latest). Therefore, the bill will either have become law without a Presidential signature (if Congress remained in session), or it will have expired (if not).

  • And of the president calls a special session with 3 days left?
    – Joshua
    Jan 1, 2017 at 7:49
  • @Joshua You mean to set him self up to pass the buck to force his incoming political opponent to veto something popular or something? That's next level dirty. In other words, get back to me in 20 years, it'll probably happen...
    – corsiKa
    Feb 19, 2018 at 5:57
  • @corsiKa: I was actually thinking a special session was called because of some pressing condition appearing on the scene at that time rather than because of political maneuvering.
    – Joshua
    Feb 19, 2018 at 16:25
  • 1
    The answer is, it doesn't matter. Congress will already be in session at that point, and it will be the newly elected Congress, not the lame duck Congress that is sitting.
    – Nobody
    Feb 19, 2018 at 18:23

As far as I can read from the article, the lame-duck session happens only until the new Senators and Representatives take office (January 3rd).

From your link:

A lame-duck session of Congress in the United States occurs whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected, but before the successor's term begins.

Also, it is clear that the previous POTUS is in office until the new one takes office (Twentieth Amendment of the USA):

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

So, most of lame-duck sessions were held without a change of Presidency (for example, in 1950). In any case, until the new POTUS is sworn in the old one is still in office, so it would be his/her responsability to sign, veto or pocket veto any bill introduced by the Congress (either the "lame-duck" old one until January 3rd, or the "not lame-duck" new one after January 3rd).

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