Mickey Edwards, former Congressman from Oklahoma, was a member of the House Republican leadership, national chair of the Conservative Union, and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation; for 11 years he taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, he now teaches at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and he is a director of the Constitution Project. Pretty solid and conservative credentials, yes?
Here’s what Edwards has to say about Bush’s practice of attaching “signing statements” to bills – statements which, in effect, are instructions to federal agencies to disregard Congress’s mandate, which makes them different from “signing statements” used by any previous administration. Much better, from Bush’s POV, than a veto, which Congress would then at least get a chance to override. (Bush has also appended more “signing statements” to bills than all previous presidents combined.) Edwards notes both the Constitution Project and the American Bar Association have appointed “special bipartisan task forces” (Edwards is a member of both task forces) to look into the legality of all this.
If Bush can’t count on his political base, who can he count on to support this practice?
Then again – why does he have to care?
Even if his use of signing statements is illegal, is there any constitutional mechanism that can be used to thwart him? To make federal agencies toe the line drawn by Congress no matter what the president tells them?