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

Good cites there from Hamlet. It’s clear that the practice of the executive disregarding laws that restrict the constitutional prerogatives of the executive branch has a lot of precedent and history. But there’s clearly a question of scale and scope here. Bush has issued at least 750 of these signing statements, vastly more than any other president. Here’s an example quoted from the Boston Globe:

Dec. 30: When requested, scientific information ''prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay."

Bush’s signing statement: The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.
This is really a reach here. The Constitution emphatically does not give the executive responsibility for “foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.” To argue that it does is to argue for an elasticity in the Constitution that would stagger those liberal jurists accused of “legislating from the bench.”

For reference, here’s what the Constiution does say about the duties of the executive branch:

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

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; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;** he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed** [bolding mine], and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States."
This is the totality of his responsibilities, except for his veto power and a couple of other minor things.

So a “Living Constitution” isn’t the model we wish to follow, right?

I mean, here you are quoting the text of the Constitution and suggesting that the text, and only the text, be used to determine its meaning.

I’m all about that.

But only if you’re willing to use that yardstick all the time. It seems a trifle unfair to insist now that the text is the beginning and end of what the Constitution means, and then turn around and support the penumbras and emanations when you like what they deliver.

Bricker, give me an example here of a penumbra or emanation that you don’t like, as a point of discussion.

I scanned the first cite, but it seems to me to support what Bush is doing, not undermine it. For us legally challenged posters, can you quote the section of that cite which argues against what Bush is doing (if that was your purpose in giving those cites)?

You can’t be serious…

I am serious. And lazy. I thought it’d be quicker for Bricker to give me a top-of-mind example than for me to pore through hundreds of previous threads.


The Fourteenth Amendment says:

Apparently, that language prevents a state from making sodomy illegal.

Now, don’t claim it’s wise to make sodomy illegal – don’t get me wrong.

But to point at that language and claim that it creates a penumbra of general protections that specifically include the right to commit sodomy is crazy.


Let me add to that ‘why?’ - Its not the right to commit sodomy that its creating. Its preventing the government from creating laws that prevent citizens from excersizing their liberties, one of which would be sodomy between consenting adults.

As predictable, irrelevant, and simpleminded as usual, Bricker. It’s nice I have you to count on.

Bricker, I’m armored in this instance by the fact that I’ve never argued, on these boards or anywhere else, that sodomy is protected by the 14th Amendment. Which is a lawyerly way of saying that I have no views on the subject, because I don’t really know the issues in that case. But that said, it does strike me that arguing that “the equal protection of the laws” covers the right to commit sodomy is still less penumbral than arguing that being Commander in Chief = responsibility for national security, or that limited treaty-making authority = responsibility for all foreign affairs. Especially if this interpretation is construed as overriding the Exective’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.

Good lawsy, and here comes the gay marriage debate again. Does it have a special affinity for executive-signing-statement threads, or what? :confused:

:dubious: And how exactly does this irrelevant to quoque shit constitute a defense (or condemnation) of what the Bush Admin is doing with its “signing statements”?

I disagree completely. It’s entirely relevant to this argument what our general views on the Constitution are – whether we’re going to cleave to the language of the document, or allow for some latitude. I’m at least a little bit latitudinarian myself, but Bush has gone way beyond my comfort zone.

The cites were not provided to show that what Bush is doing is wrong, illegal, or unconstitutional, but rather to share some information I found helpful in understanding the issues surrounding signing statements.

Personally, I find nothing inherently wrong with signing statements. I’m much more concerned with what any President says, I’m much more interested in what they do. If he follows through with his signing statements, for example if he refuses to provide Congress with the statements regarding the Patriot Act as the statute requires, that’s when I have a problem. Although the signing statements are good indications of his intent to violate the law, I’m more concerned about the times he does. Not that I expect Congress to do much of anything about it, though.

Sorry for any confusion.

It’s relevant because I believe many of you coming down on the side of “Bush is evil for disregarding the text of the law” in this instance have an entirely different view of the value of text when it cuts against issues you support. If that is true, then it calls into question your actual commitment to “text of the law.” it suggests that “text of the law” is simply a convenient peg for you to hang your hat on for this issue, to pretend that your ire arises from a neutral desire to defend the law as opposed to a partisan desire to not see the law bent in this precise way.

If that is the case, I believe it would be honest for you to argue just that: (1) I’m OK with bending the law, because I believe in a Living Constitution, but (2) THIS PARTICULAR BENDING is unwise, because (a), (b), and (c) reasons. Thsi would allow the debate to focus on your true objections.

By instead arguing that the text is sacrosant, you can attack Bush’s actions without having to defend your real objections - you instead must defend the relatively unassailable ground that the law means what the law means. But since you don’t actually believe that, it seems dishonest to advance it here and then abandon it when it no longer suits your desired ends.

Well, I think the point is to prepare the ground for a court battle. This way, if the Admin is caught violating a specific requirement of a statute enacted during Bush’s presidency, they can say, “Well, the president told you so when he signed it, and his constitutional position is correct, so nyah!” Then it goes to the courts – where there is some precedent for giving weight to a presidential signing statement as part of a bill’s “legislative history.” (See thread linked in OP.)

Oh, it’s “less penumbral,” eh?

Well, then I guess you want “more penumbral.”

That’s required by the text of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Now, is that less or more of a jump than concluding that the single position identified as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States” and the one who makes treaties and appoints ambassadors to be the person responsible for national security. The very reason for the existence of the army and the navy is to provide for national security. The guy in charge of them is thus in charge of national security. That’s a very tight, reasonable leap.

Compare that to a vague reference to “liberty” being construed as requiring pregnancy to be viewed in trimesters, with the first trimester utterly unsubject to government regulation. That may be a wise decision, but it’s by no means a interpretation that comes from the text of the Fourteenth Amendment - is it?

Let me turn it around, Bricker - I know from other threads that you would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and all states make abortion illegal. If you believe what the president is doing is legal, then how do you justify being a literalist with respect to the abortion debate, but a loose constructionist when it comes to a president altering laws as he signs them?