While roaming the Internet I came across a story by Michael Abramowitz, of the Washington Post. It was quite an interesting article, and I’ve quoted liberally from it below.
It seems King George is thumbing his nose at the American people and quaint little ideas such as the Constitution yet again. A bipartisan panel of legal scholars and lawyers, who were brought together by the American Bar Association, has strongly criticized President Bush for his use of “signing statements,” which he uses as a means of ignoring, or simply not enforcing, laws pass by Congress that he and his buddies find … well, inconvenient.
In a report issued on July 24, 2006, the ABA task force stated that President Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. The panel described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, and urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of these “signing statements.”
According to ABA President Michael Greco, a Massachusetts attorney, “The president is indicating that he will not either enforce part or the entirety of congressional bills – we will be close to a constitutional crisis if this issue, the president’s use of signing statements, is left unchecked.”
The report is probably going to anger a lot of King George’s buddies, fueling the controversy over signing statements, which President Bush has used to challenge laws ranging from a congressional ban on torture and a request for data on the Patriot Act, to whistle-blower protections and the banning of U.S. troops in fighting rebels in Colombia.
Naturally, Adminstration officials describe these signing statements as a part of a routine presidential practice. Nothing to worry about. You Constitutional alarmist can go back to your tofu and lattes.
“Presidents have issued signing statements since the early days of our country,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Sunday; probably while stifling a yawn over yet another silly Constitutional non-issue. “… He is exercising a legitimate power in a legitimate way.”
Funny how they use the word “legitimate,” isn’t it?
President Bush vetoed his first bill last week (and Mama Bush was so proud of him). It was a measure approved by Congress which would relax his limits on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Bush basically said, “Aw, hell no, you didn’t.” But he has on many occasions signed bills, then issued statements reserving the right not to enforce or execute parts of the new laws, on the grounds that they infringe on presidential authority or violate other constitutional provisions.
Surprisingly (snark), the Justice Department has determined that the rarity of Bush’s approach is a matter of some dispute. They said that President Bush has issued 110 signing statements, compared with President Bill Clinton’s 80.
The ABA task force, chaired by prominent Miami attorney Neil Sonnett, disagrees, and cites research that President Bush in his signing statements has collectively lodged more than 800 challenges to provisions of laws passed by Congress.
No doubt the debate and spin will continue. The report will be considered by the full ABA at its meeting next month.