George W. Bush Signing Statements
… By Cooper’s
count, George W. Bush issued 23 signing statements in 2001; 34 statements
in 2002, raising 168 constitutional objections; 27 statements in 2003, raising
142 constitutional challenges, and 23 statements in 2004, raising 175 constitutional
criticisms. In total, during his first term Bush raised a remarkable 505 constitutional
challenges to various provisions of legislation that became law.
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
The upshot? It is as if no law had been passed on the
matter at all. …
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.
The Court held the Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional
in that it violated the Constitution’s Presentment Clause. That Clause says
that after a bill has passed both Houses, but "before it become[s] a
Law," it must be presented to the President, who "shall sign it"
if he approves it, but "return it" – that is, veto the bill, in
its entirety– if he does not. …
Problem with Signing Statements, by John Dean
John Dean’s article lays the case out nicely for anyone new to questioning the
legality and constitutionality of George W. Bush’s signing statements. It also
brings in new issues, which question yet another branch of our government under George
W. Bush’s thumb.
Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department may run smack into Bush’s
signing statements when a law Congress has passed proves unconstitutional after
Bush puts his pen to it. But will Gonzales proceed against the president?
What to do if his conflicts of interests impede justice?
Dean has a suggestion, which I find powerful given the circumstances
today. Congress should establish and fund a non-partisan legal division on which
to complete its oversight. In the current case of a president run amok with
executive power expansion disease, while having a crony at Justice who isn’t exactly
keeping the rest of us in mind, it’s the only way to make certain we are served.
The only constitutional means by which a president can turn back
Congress is the veto. Anything beyond that, including a signing statement used
to change the law so it does not apply to the president, claiming the law is
"advisory" only, is unconstitutional.
As in Nixon’s era, we are now in the Bush age of the leak. It
started with the CIA, who didn’t like taking the blame for the White House Iraq Group’s stovepiping and cherry picking of intelligence. Now we’ve got our most secret agencies spilling the
beans on Bush’s spying on Americans, because your basic intel people don’t like what’s going on. Laws are being broken by the president. Federal employees, Congress, including Republicans, are beginning
to stand up to George W. Bush, which will only get more obvious as we get further
into W.’s lame duck status. However, we need to continue to push Congress, while educating the people.