The President of the United States sends proposed bills to members of Congress, that they may introduce the bills on his behalf. There's no provision for this in the Constitution (AFAICT).

  • What was the first instance of this, and how was it received (i.e., what was the reaction)?
  • When did it become a common or normal occurrence, and how?

There is a provision in the Constitution for the President to propose bills to Congress. From Article II, Section 3 (emphasis mine):

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;

While every President has had the ability to propose bills to Congress, I can't find any specific examples of either Washington or Adams doing so. The earliest example that I found was from 1806, when Thomas Jefferson called upon Congress to criminalize the international slave trade. The bill passed and Jefferson signed it into law in 1807, but it didn't take effect until January 1, 1808 (the earliest that the Constitution allowed the slave trade to be banned).

There are other notable bills proposed by Presidents throughout U.S. history. For example, in 1909 William Howard Taft proposed a federal income tax that became the 16th Constitutional Amendment. In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt started proposing a number of bills as a part of his New Deal. According to Wikipedia, "from March 9 to June 16, 1933, he sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily." So, while every President has had the ability, FDR was the one that made its use more common.

  • 1
    +1, and many thanks for a well-written answer whose veracity I (can't vouch for but) have no reason to doubt. And thanks for the correction about the Constitutional basis!
    – msh210
    Jul 26 '12 at 4:43
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    "Proposing a bill to Congress" is something anybody can do (getting Congress to listen is the tough part). What this part of the Constitution is saying is that the President must do so.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 26 '12 at 15:26
  • This is an excellent succinct answer.
    – ihtkwot
    Apr 10 '13 at 21:38
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    @T.E.D.: Since it only requires that he make such recommendations as he judge necessary, and grants him total discretion in how he employs that judgment, I think "must" is too strong a term. Nonetheless, the Constitution authorizes the President to claim that time spent ascertaining what legislation might be necessary is time spent working and for which he would be entitled to payment.
    – supercat
    Jun 17 '15 at 16:15
  • @supercat - Its the first half (with the SOTU and the "shall") that I was talking about. The other half you are right does come off as an option. My point was that this option is already available to all Americans, so its really kind of meaningless there.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 17 '15 at 16:25

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