GOP House Members Fail to Override Biden’s First Veto on Retirement Plan Investing Rule

House Republicans failed to override a veto by President Joe Biden that blocked a Republican-backed bill that overturned a Labor Department rule on investing strategies for retirement savings.

The bill was a long shot from the beginning. The GOP required a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto — which was unlikely, with the GOP’s narrow majority of nine seats.

The House voted 219-200 in the attempt to override the president’s veto Thursday afternoon, which was well short of the two-thirds majority.

The president issued his first veto Monday after the House voted to block the environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, rule. The GOP dubbed the rule a “woke policy” that would hurt retirees.

The ESG rule is an investing strategy that considers businesses’ social and environmental risks as part of a broader financial analysis. It had the support of Republicans in the Senate and House. The Labor Department rule was put in place last year, making it easier for retirement plans to consider social factors and climate change.

GOP Senate members, along with two Democrats, voted on the measure earlier in the month, and it was passed with a simple majority. Democrat Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana joined the Republicans.

President Biden had promised to veto the bill before it reached his desk.

“Retirement plan fiduciaries should be able to consider any factor that maximizes financial returns for retirees across the country,” said Biden before Congress voted no on the bill. “That is not controversial — that is common sense.”

President Biden indicated he signed the veto because the legislation would put the retirement savings of individuals in the United States at risk.

“They couldn’t take into consideration investments that would be impacted by climate impacted by overpaying executives,” said Biden.

Veto signals more confrontation to come

Biden’s first veto represents a more confrontational approach midway through the president’s term in office. He faces a Republican-controlled House, ready to investigate his family and administration and eager to undo parts of his policy legacy. Complications facing Biden include several Democratic senators who will face re-election next year in conservative states. Siding with the GOP gives them the political incentive to distance themselves from the White House.

Critics say the plan is based on political agendas, including a campaign against climate change, instead of earning the best returns for retirees and investors. Congressional Republicans pushing the measure say that government investments’ social and environmental considerations are just another example of being “woke.”

“In his first veto, Biden just sided with woke Wall Street over workers,” tweeted GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday. “Tells you exactly where his priorities lie.” He continued, “it’s clear Biden wants Wall Street to use your retirement savings to fund his far-left political causes.”

McCarthy’s tweet echoes Manchin’s statement, “This administration continues to prioritize their radical policy agenda over the economic, energy, and national security needs of our country, and it is absolutely infuriating.”

Although Biden quickly vetoed the investment resolution, additional measures on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks and months could be a more challenging call for Biden.

The Biden administration initially signaled that the president would reject a GOP-authored measure that would override a crime measure passed by the D.C. Council. However, the president said later that he would sign it and did so on Monday. Additionally, he signed a bill that directed the government to declassify intelligence related to the origins of Covid-19.

Former President Trump, Biden’s immediate predecessor, vetoed ten bills during his term, while Barack Obama vetoed 12. Both presidents had one of their vetoes overridden by Congress.

The president with the record for the most vetoes is Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected to four terms before a constitutional amendment was put in place to limit presidents to two, with 635 vetoes. Six presidents of the U.S. never vetoed legislation while in office.