President Obama and Signing Statements

The New York Times reports that President Obama is continuing the practice of issuing signing statements when he signs bills passed by Congress into law. Such statements instruct the Executive Branch on how to interpret certain provisions in the bills, and when they should not only be subject to interpretation but when they can be outright ignored.

How convenient. If you do not like something passed by Congress, the President can amend the legislation into something he likes or delete certain aspects completely with the stroke of a pen.

Now, I understand that President Obama is using this tactic far less often then President George Dubyah Bush. However I would have to consider myself a hypocrite if I condemned Dubyah's usage (which I did) and then say it is OK when the tactic is used by Obama.

I also understand that Obama most times is using signing statements to protect Executive Branch powers when Congress is, in his opinion, trying to tiptoe over the line separating the powers of the branches of government. However he could veto the entire bill based upon his objections as specifically allowed in the constitution. If Congress then overrides his veto, he could then delay enforcement of the bill by the executive branch, if he thinks some measures are unconstitutional, until the issue is decided by the Supreme Court.

I seem to recall that at one time our government tried to give the President the power of the Line Item Veto. The Line Item Veto would have given the President the power to sign into law bills he generally agreed with but where he disagreed with certain aspects, or line items, of the bill. Those line items he disagreed with he could selectively veto before signing the bill; placing into law only those specifics he agreed with. Problem was the Supreme Court decided the line item veto was unconstitutional.

Well signing statements seem to be an attempt to do an end run around the Supreme Court decision. Instead of vetoing certain line items, the President just issues a signing statement saying certain line items will be ignored. How convenient it must be for our dictator, err President, that while defending the powers of his office he can ignore the powers of both the other branches of government.


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