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To override a U.S. presidential veto requires a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of Congress. According to this Wikipedia page, this has happened 111 times. What I'm having trouble finding is: What pieces of U.S. legislation passed with a supermajority in both houses of Congress without being vetoed? I'm curious what types have, or time periods had, high support.

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    @MichaelMormon Right. I'm also thinking that the parties have occasionally changed, and those periods might have more because there was only one functional party during the change. – ricksmt Sep 3 at 19:59
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    Actually lots of bills do that each congress. They are typically low-impact measures like renaming post offices, but supplementals also tend to be low-drag. – dandavis Sep 3 at 20:13
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    @AzorAhai--hehim Yes, I'd count unanimous. Those might be the most interesting. – ricksmt Sep 3 at 20:49
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    @MichaelMormon: It also happens for more mundane legislation, such as the CALM Act and the SPEECH Act. – Kevin Sep 3 at 21:30
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    @Michael Mormon: There are quite a few such examples - Congress wasn't always as partisan as it is today. Notable are the US declarations of war in WWII: 82-0 in the the Senate, 388-1 in the House against Japan, 82-0 and 393-0 against Germany. – jamesqf Sep 3 at 23:32
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What pieces of U.S. legislation passed with a supermajority in both houses of Congress without being vetoed?

Actually, most of the legislation passed by Congress passes unanimously or with supermajority support.

While legislation upon which there are partisan divides is notable and attracts the most media attention, a huge share of all legislation is passed with bipartisan support and is uncontroversial.

For example, most revenue bills receive bipartisan support in their final form, as do a host of uncontroversial bills authorizing transfers of U.S. real property and naming post offices. Some are uncontroversial because they are trivial, but others are significant legislative acts backed by the leadership of both parties in both houses of Congress because compromises were reached.

Statistics on the total volume of Congressional action can be found here. A detailed summary of legislative action in one two year session of Congress (the 115th) can be found here. Recorded votes are identified here and that list can be narrowed greatly by eliminating roll call votes on legislation that didn't pass.

For example, in 2019, Congressional Quarterly identified just 12 "key votes" in the House and just 10 "key votes" in the U.S. Senate, out of about 150 laws passed. Most of those key votes were on the same bills in the respective houses of Congress.

Keep in mind that the vote on a bill to pass it has nothing to do with whether a bill may be vetoed. The supermajority requirement applies to a separate veto override bill, after the legislation has been passed and the legislation is then vetoed.

Nonetheless, common practice is for the leadership of the President's party in Congress (whether in the majority or the minority of a particular house of Congress) to oppose legislation if the President indicates that he or she intends to veto it, and for the President to indicate an intent to veto legislation before a final vote occurs in Congress. There are only a tiny number of cases where both parties in Congress back a bill that is opposed by the President with a veto threat in the legislative process, perhaps 1-2 per year, but not many. And, bipartisan support has been necessary to achieve a supermajority for a put of handful of Congressional sessions.

In cases of divided control of Congress, or cases where the neither party has a filibuster proof majority in the U.S. Senate, this is usually sufficient to prevent any bill a President says he or she will veto from getting a supermajority in the first place.

| improve this answer | |
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    Re that "tiny number of cases" - This is, as you say, very rare. Usually, when it does happen, it's a case of Congress trying to legislate in an area traditionally reserved to the President's discretion, such as foreign policy or military action, with a bill that has broad popular support. Presidents tend to oppose those bills to preserve the strength of their office and for separation of powers reasons, and often because they just don't think the bill fits into their policy agenda. See for example JASTA. – Kevin Sep 4 at 19:41
  • @Kevin I agree. – ohwilleke Sep 4 at 19:44
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The Senate.gov website publishes XML data for roll call votes going back to the 101st Congress in 1989 (example), and the House.gov website also publishes the results of roll call votes going back to 1990 (example). By looking at the vote totals for each roll call vote which includes a reference to a bill being passed, we can get a fairly decent list of every bill passed by both chambers with a supermajority of 2/3. It is important to note that this only includes legislation which actually went to a roll call vote, and not those passed by voice vote, for example.

This gives us a total of 243 bills which passed both chambers with roll call votes which produced supermajorities. The three examples from this year are:

  1. H.R. 6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, which passed the House by 415 - 2, and the Senate 96 - 1;
  2. H.R. 6172 - USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, House 278 - 136, Senate 80 - 16;
  3. H.R. 6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act, House 363 - 40, Senate 90 - 8.

I've created a visualisation of this data, shown below. Red points represent bills introduced in the House, blue points represent bills introduced in the Senate, however the use of shell bills may throw this off somewhat. Average support level is calculated by taking the average proportion of 'yea' votes in each chamber.

enter image description here

There are a total of 13 bills which achieved unanimous consent in a roll call vote in both chambers, the most recent of these was in 2015; H.R.203 - Clay Hunt SAV Act, which passed 403 - 0 and 99 - 0. The bill with the lowest level of support was H.R.2 - Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which passed 289 - 139 and 66-32.

With regard to support over time, we can either look at the raw number of bills passed with a supermajority, or the average support level broken down by year in each case. Below are the results of these analyses - 2003, for example, saw a relatively high number of supermajority bills passed, as well as a relatively high level of support.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Below is the list of bills & votes identified by my search.

Year      Issue    House Senate
1990  H.R. 2061   396-21   98-0
1990  H.R. 4328    424-0  68-32
1990  H.R. 5021   358-55   91-7
1990  H.R. 5114  308-117  76-23
1990  H.R. 5158   355-48   90-8
1990  H.R. 5241   300-72   93-6
1990  H.R. 5268   335-86  79-19
1990  H.R. 5257   359-58  76-15
1990    S. 1511   406-17   94-1
1990  H.R. 5803   322-97  79-16
1990  H.R. 5769   327-80   92-6
1990  H.R. 5399  292-117  72-24
1991     H.R. 4    415-0   99-0
1991     H.R. 3    421-0   99-0
1991   H.R. 556    412-0   99-0
1991   H.R. 707   395-27   90-8
1991  H.R. 1281   365-43   92-8
1991  H.R. 1282   380-19   98-1
1991  H.R. 2427   392-24   96-3
1991  H.R. 2608   338-80  86-13
1991  H.R. 2622   349-48   91-8
1991  H.R. 2686   345-76   93-3
1991  H.R. 2707   353-74  78-22
1991  H.R. 2698   368-48   92-7
1991  H.R. 2942   379-47   95-3
1991    S. 1722  294-127  69-30
1991    S. 1745   381-38   93-5
1991  H.R. 3575   396-30   91-2
1992  H.R. 4095    404-8   94-2
1992   H.R. 776   381-37   93-3
1992  H.R. 5368  297-124  87-12
1992  H.R. 5487   312-99   88-9
1992  H.R. 5504   328-94  86-10
1992    H.R. 11   356-55  70-29
1992  H.R. 5518   306-74  74-22
1992  H.R. 5677   345-54  82-13
1992  H.R. 5620  297-124  84-10
1992  H.R. 5679   314-92   92-3
1992    S. 1696  282-123  75-22
1992      S. 12  308-114  73-18
1993    H.R. 20   333-86  68-31
1993  H.R. 2295  309-111  88-10
1993  H.R. 1876  295-126  76-16
1993  H.R. 2445   350-73  89-10
1993  H.R. 2491  313-110   91-9
1993  H.R. 2493  304-119  90-10
1993  H.R. 2518  305-124  82-17
1993  H.R. 2519   327-98  87-13
1993  H.R. 2750   312-89   90-9
1993  H.R. 3167   302-95  76-20
1994  H.R. 3759   337-74  85-10
1994     H.R. 6  289-128   94-6
1994  H.R. 4453   380-42   84-2
1994  H.R. 4426   337-87   84-9
1994  H.R. 4506   393-29   91-8
1994  H.R. 4556   363-59   91-9
1994  H.R. 4554  278-127   92-8
1994  H.R. 4606   339-89  87-13
1994  H.R. 4624   344-84   86-9
1994  H.R. 4650   330-91  86-14
1994  H.R. 4299   410-16   97-2
1994     S. 208   386-30   90-9
1995       S. 2    390-0   98-1
1995  H.R. 1058   325-99  69-30
1995  H.R. 1058  319-100  69-30
1995   H.R. 660    424-5   94-3
1995  H.R. 1817  319-105  84-10
1995  H.R. 1868   333-89   91-9
1995  H.R. 1976   313-78   95-3
1995  H.R. 2002   361-61   98-1
1995      S. 21  298-128  69-29
1995  H.R. 1617   345-79   95-2
1995   H.R. 927  294-130  74-24
1995    S. 1322   374-37   93-5
1996  H.R. 2880   371-42   82-8
1996  H.R. 2202   333-87   97-3
1996  H.R. 3448   414-10  74-24
1996  H.R. 3540   366-57   93-7
1996  H.R. 3603   351-74   97-1
1996  H.R. 3610  278-126  72-27
1996  H.R. 3525    422-0   98-0
1996  H.R. 3675    403-2   95-2
1996  H.R. 3754   360-58   93-6
1996  H.R. 3396   342-67  85-14
1996  H.R. 3816   391-23   93-6
1996  H.R. 3539   398-17   99-0
1996      S. 39   384-30  100-0
1998  H.R. 1151    411-8   92-6
1998     H.R. 6    414-4   96-1
1998  H.R. 2431   375-41   98-0
1998  H.R. 3150  306-118   97-1
1998  H.R. 4101   373-48   97-2
1998  H.R. 4103   358-61   97-2
1999   H.R. 800   330-90   98-1
1999  H.R. 1376    424-0   95-0
1999  H.R. 2084    429-3   95-0
1999  H.R. 2466   377-47  89-10
2000     H.R. 5    422-0  100-0
2000    S. 2323    421-0   95-0
2000  H.R. 4425   386-22   96-4
2000  H.R. 4205   353-63   97-3
2000  H.R. 4475   395-13   99-0
2000  H.R. 4576   367-58   95-3
2000  H.R. 4762   385-39   92-6
2000  H.R. 4733   407-19   93-1
2000  H.R. 4733   315-98   93-1
2000  H.R. 4461   339-82  79-13
2000    S. 2796   394-14   85-1
2000   H.R. 782    405-2   94-0
2001   H.R. 333  306-108  82-16
2001    H.R. 10   407-24   90-9
2001     H.R. 1   384-45   91-8
2001  H.R. 2216   341-87   98-1
2001  H.R. 2311   405-15   97-2
2001  H.R. 2330   414-16   91-5
2001  H.R. 2500   408-19   97-0
2001  H.R. 2506   381-46   96-2
2001  H.R. 2620   336-89   94-5
2001  H.R. 2904    401-0   97-0
2001  H.R. 2944   327-88  75-24
2001  H.R. 3061   373-43  89-10
2001  H.R. 3162   357-66   98-1
2002  H.R. 4775  280-138  71-22
2002  H.R. 5010   413-18   95-3
2002  H.R. 5011    426-1   96-3
2002  H.R. 5121   365-49  85-14
2002  H.R. 5005  295-132   90-9
2002    S. 2690    401-5   99-0
2003  H.R. 1307    422-0   97-0
2003  H.R. 2115    418-8   94-0
2003  H.R. 2555    425-2   93-1
2003  H.R. 2559    428-0   91-0
2003  H.R. 2658   399-19   95-0
2003  H.R. 2658   399-19   95-0
2003  H.R. 2657   394-26   85-7
2003  H.R. 2673   347-64   93-1
2003  H.R. 2330    418-2   94-1
2003  H.R. 2754   377-26   92-0
2003  H.R. 2989   381-39   91-3
2003  H.R. 2622   392-30   95-2
2003  H.R. 3161    412-8   95-0
2003  H.R. 1828    398-4   89-4
2003     S. 877    392-5   97-0
2004  H.R. 3104    423-0   98-0
2004  H.R. 4567    400-5   93-0
2004  H.R. 4613   403-17   98-0
2004  H.R. 4755   327-43   94-2
2004  H.R. 4759  314-109  80-16
2004      S. 15    414-2   99-0
2004  H.R. 4837    420-1   91-0
2005     H.R. 3    417-9  89-11
2005  H.R. 1268   388-43   99-0
2005     S. 256  302-126  74-25
2005  H.R. 2360    424-1   96-1
2005  H.R. 2361   329-89   94-0
2005  H.R. 2419   416-13   92-3
2005  H.R. 2528    425-1   98-0
2005  H.R. 2744   408-18   97-2
2005  H.R. 2862    418-7   91-4
2005  H.R. 2863   398-19   97-0
2005  H.R. 3057   393-32   98-1
2005  H.R. 3058   405-18   93-1
2005  H.R. 3673   410-11   97-0
2006    S. 2271  280-138   95-4
2006  H.R. 4939   348-71  77-21
2006  H.R. 4954    421-2   98-0
2006  H.R. 5441    389-9  100-0
2006  H.R. 5631   407-19   98-0
2006     H.R. 9   390-33   98-0
2006    S. 3504    425-0  100-0
2006  H.R. 5682   359-68  85-12
2006     H.R. 4  279-131   93-5
2006  H.R. 6061  283-138  80-19
2007     H.R. 2  315-116   94-3
2007   H.R. 976   360-45  68-31
2007  H.R. 1495   394-25   91-4
2007  H.R. 1495   361-54   91-4
2007  H.R. 1124  268-100   96-0
2007  H.R. 1585   397-27   92-3
2007     S. 214  306-114   94-2
2007  H.R. 2642    409-2   92-1
2007       S. 1    411-8   96-2
2007  H.R. 3688  285-132  77-18
2008  H.R. 4986   369-46   91-3
2008  H.R. 5140   385-35  81-16
2008  H.R. 5501  308-116  80-16
2008    S. 2739  291-117   91-4
2008  H.R. 6124  306-110  77-15
2008  H.R. 6124  317-109  77-15
2008  H.R. 6304  293-129  69-28
2008    S. 3001   392-39   88-8
2008  H.R. 7081  298-117  86-13
2009     H.R. 2  289-139  66-32
2009   H.R. 146   394-13  77-20
2009  H.R. 1388  321-105  79-19
2009  H.R. 1256  298-112  79-17
2009   H.R. 627   357-70   90-5
2009     S. 386   367-59   92-4
2009  H.R. 2346   368-60   86-3
2009     S. 896   367-54   91-5
2009  H.R. 2892   389-37   84-6
2009  H.R. 3082    415-3  100-0
2009  H.R. 3183   320-97   85-9
2009  H.R. 3357   363-68  79-17
2009  H.R. 3326   400-30   93-7
2009  H.R. 3548   331-83   98-0
2011     H.R. 4  314-112  87-12
2011  H.R. 2055    411-5   97-2
2011  H.R. 1249  304-117   89-9
2011  H.R. 3079  300-129  77-22
2011   H.R. 674   405-16   95-0
2011  H.R. 3672   351-67  72-27
2012    S. 2038    417-2   96-3
2012  H.R. 3606   390-23  73-26
2012  H.R. 2072   330-93  78-20
2012  H.R. 5949  301-118  73-23
2012  H.R. 6156   365-43   92-4
2013      S. 47  286-138  78-22
2013   H.R. 527    394-1   97-2
2014  H.R. 3370   306-91  72-22
2014  H.R. 5021   367-55  79-18
2014  H.R. 5771   378-46  76-16
2014    S. 2244    417-7   93-4
2015    H.R. 26    416-5   93-4
2015   H.R. 203    403-0   99-0
2015   H.R. 644  279-137  78-20
2015  H.R. 1191    415-0   98-1
2015     H.R. 2   392-37   92-8
2015  H.R. 2048   338-88  67-32
2015     S. 178    420-3   99-0
2015  H.R. 3236   385-34   91-4
2016   H.R. 757    418-2   96-0
2016    S. 1890    410-2   87-0
2016     S. 524    400-5   94-1
2016  H.R. 6297    419-1   99-0
2017  H.R. 2810   344-81   89-8
2017  H.R. 3364    419-3   98-2
2018  H.R. 1865   388-25   97-2
2018  H.R. 5515   351-66  85-10
2018     H.R. 6   396-14   99-1
2018  H.R. 6157   359-49   85-7
2019      S. 47   363-62   92-8
2019  H.R. 1327   402-12   97-2
2019  H.R. 4378  301-123  81-16
2019     S. 151    417-3   97-1
2020  H.R. 6074    415-2   96-1
2020  H.R. 6172  278-136  80-16
2020  H.R. 6201   363-40   90-8
| improve this answer | |
  • What were the total numbers of bills passed in your sample period (percentages are more meaningful than raw numbers because a bill can be broken up in to arbitrarily many or few chunks)? Also, of course, the fact that "this only includes legislation which actually went to a roll call vote, and not those passed by voice vote, for example" means that almost all of the omitted bills from the sample reviewed as a whole were supermajority bills. – ohwilleke Sep 17 at 19:28
  • This is awesome! You mentioned your data sources, but what did you use to generate the graphs? – ricksmt 2 days ago
  • @ohwilleke I'll try and update with the percentages in a couple of days when I'm back at a PC :) I take your point that only looking at roll call votes is a substantial omission, but I still think it's quite interesting! – CDJB 2 days ago
  • @ricksmt I pulled in the data from the web into a dataframe using python, filtered out votes unrelated to a passage of a bill, and those without a supermajority vote, and then used the seaborn & matplotlib packages to create the graphs. Glad you found it interesting! – CDJB 2 days ago

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