Bush still appending "signing statements" to new laws saying he won't obey them

In a thread in January, we discussed the Bush Admin’s use of “presidential signing statements” added when Bush signs new legislation, stating how the Admin interprets the law and what language it does or does not intend to respect: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=353667

He’s still doing it. In March, when Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT ACT, he “included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act’s expanded police powers.” http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/03/24/bush_shuns_patriot_act_requirement/ (Registration required but free.)

Bush has added such it-don’t-apply-to-me statements to 750 bills he has signed as president – an unprecedented 1 out of 10. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2006/04/30/bush_challenges_hundreds_of_laws/

Three Senate Democrats – Kennedy, Reid and Leahy – have called him on it. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2006/05/02/3_democrats_slam_president_over_defying/ Nevertheless, except for the Boston Globe, which broke the stories linked here, the mainstream media curiously have ignored this. http://mediamatters.org/items/200605020011

Does anyone care to defend what Bush is doing here, or argue he has the constitutional authority?

I don’t know why this isn’t an impeachable offense, and a violation of the oath of office. We have an entire branch of government to decide on the constitutionality of the laws – and it ain’t the executive branch.

Because he’s only making a statement? It wouldn’t become an offense until he actually follows up on his stated intention to disobey/disregard something in the bill.

My impression is that he has defied the law, in the instance that I’m recollecting by refusing to provide Congress with information, as provided for in the law. (I don’t have the cite handy, but will look for it later). Besides, I’m not sure what the point would be of issuing a signing statement and then going ahead and following the law anyway.

Well, it’s conceivable that the clause to which the prez objects applies to a situation that never actually comes up during his term.

I don’t like it, but I pretty much said everything I wanted to say in the Pit Thread (especially before it disintegrated into a debate about gay marriage).

Actually, it kind of is. All three branches should be concerned about the constitutionality of laws. If the president believes part of a law is unconstitutional, then he should veto the law. The entire law. Another option would be to sign the law, but immediately send things to the court (I’m not sure how he’d do this without breaking the law first, but there could be a way, at the very least he could create a test case with a small, public, infraction). He has options availiable to him.

What the president cannot do is simply refuse to obey a law.

No cite, but I recall from a Con Law class that George Washington once sent a proposed treaty to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on its constitutionality. He was rebuffed – they told him, in effect, we don’t do that; as a court of law, we can only decide constitutional/legal questions when ruling on actual cases-in-controversy before the court.

I forget - regarding invasion of a foreign country based on false pretenses - is that a high crime or is that a misdemeanor? Is it worse if you make the call to do so with an intern under your desk - or does that matter?

It’s acceptable only if you’re a Republican.

Like rjung says, it’s because he’s a Republican. A Democrat who acted like Bush would have been impeached long ago.

Well, you’re both wrong, obviously, since Democrats have done the same thing and weren’t impeached for it.


Is that the same thing as in

“Democratic presidents have issued signing statements - indicating questions or disagreement with some portion of legislation, (possibly in line with Supreme Court judgements)”


“Democratic presidents have issued signing statements broadly at odds with legislation, such as rejecting Congressional authority to issue laws explicitly denying the president permission to send troops into combat in specified countries with which we are not at war”

True that Dem presidents have used “signing statements” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signing_statement#Presidential_usage:

But not like W has – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signing_statement#George_W._Bush.27s_use_of_Signing_Statements:

This goes way beyond Clinton’s position. Bush is actually claiming legislative authority in his own right, beyond the veto, and that’s not constitutional.

No, he isn’t, so no, he’s not.


Google “weasel-words.”

And what exactly are these “constitutional limitations on judicial power”?

So…what? He wrote that in order to claim that he’d do the exact thing he swore in his oath of office to do? I think Bush is an idiot, so I at least have some way of explaining a thing like that, but how do you explain it?

More generally: if the president’s prerogative powers as defined in article 2 always take precedence over laws passed by Congress, how can Congress limit the president’s power? Is there any way? If not, what checks the president’s authority?

“I’ll do whatever I want until the Supreme Court tells me otherwise. Then, and only then, I might, maybe, if I’m feeling like a uniter and not a divider, I’ll stop on my own accord, but only because I want to.”

That’s just my guess.

Balls. We suffer from a lack thereof.

Oh, and to add more than a drive by, but well deserved, potshot at our President, I’ll add some interesting articles prepared by the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel (in prior years, so it may not reflect the views of the current administration).

Signing Statements in General

Presidential Authority to Decline to Execute Unconstitutional Statutes
They’re actually brief and pretty well written, which is strange for government attorneys.