Bush really likes these signing statements.
This caught my eye about the Patriot Act.
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9. But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a “signing statement,” an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.
In the statement, Bush said he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law’s requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would “impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive’s constitutional duties.”
Thursday, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said Bush’s statement represented “nothing short of a radical effort to manipulate the constitutional separation of powers and evade accountability and responsibility for following the law.”
For a bit more about signing statements, since I am a mere peon, I found some interesting opinions offered by an attorney at FindLaw.com. And this attorney was counsel to Richard Nixon’s presidency, so he is well versed in these matters.
This was written in January, 2006.
For those who do not want to read the full text, here’s a clip:
[Note, I would URGE you to read the whole thing since it’s quite informative.]
Generally, Bush’s signing statements tend to be brief and very broad, and they seldom cite the authority on which the president is relying for his reading of the law. None has yet been tested in court. But they do appear to be bulking up the powers of the presidency. Here are a few examples:
Suppose a new law requires the President to act in a certain manner – for instance, to report to Congress on how he is dealing with terrorism. Bush’s signing statement will flat out reject the law, and state that he will construe the law “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive’s constitutional duties.”
The upshot? It is as if no law had been passed on the matter at all.
Or suppose a new law suggests even the slightest intrusion into the President’s undefined “prerogative powers” under Article II of the Constitution, relating to national security, intelligence gathering, or law enforcement. Bush’s signing statement will claim that notwithstanding the clear intent of Congress, which has used mandatory language, the provision will be considered as “advisory.”
The upshot? It is as if Congress had acted as a mere advisor, with no more formal power than, say, Karl Rove – not as a coordinate and coequal branch of government, which in fact it is.
As Phillip Cooper observes, the President’s signing statements are, in some instances, effectively rewriting the laws by reinterpreting how the law will be implemented. Notably, Cooper finds some of Bush’s signing statements – and he has the benefit of judging them against his extensive knowledge of other President’s signing statements—“excessive, unhelpful, and needlessly confrontational.”
The Constitutional and Practical Problems With Bush’s Use of Signing Statements
Given the incredible number of constitutional challenges Bush is issuing to new laws, without vetoing them, his use of signing statements is going to sooner or later put him in an untenable position. And there is a strong argument that it has already put him in a position contrary to Supreme Court precedent, and the Constitution, vis-à-vis the veto power.
Bush is using signing statements like line item vetoes. Yet the Supreme Court has held the line item vetoes are unconstitutional. In 1988, in Clinton v. New York, the High Court said a president had to veto an entire law: Even Congress, with its Line Item Veto Act, could not permit him to veto provisions he might not like.
When can we get this guy out of office? Hello, Supreme court? Congress? Can you do anything? 7 years ago