signing statements

A Declaration ... of the People's Plight ...

(click to enlarge)

(more readable text)
" Drafted by Thomas Jefferson

between June 11 and June 28, 1776,

the Declaration of Independence is at once

the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty

and Jefferson's most enduring monument.

Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases,

Jefferson expressed the convictions

in the minds and hearts of the American people

The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new;

its ideals of individual liberty

had already been expressed by John Locke

and the Continental philosophers.

What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy

in "self-evident truths"

and set forth a list of grievances

against the King

in order to justify before the world

the breaking of ties between the colonies

and the mother country. "

Source: The Charters of Freedom website.

On Signing Statements

One of the biggest abuses of Presidential authority by the Bush Administration has been the use and misuse of Presidential Signing Statements in order to create and extend a precedent for the President's capacity to "legislate from White House" -- above and beyond the President's inherent authority to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."1

In a recent online discussion, the following passage was brought up in order to broach -- and presumably rebut -- the topic of the Bush Administration's abuse of signing statements by justifying their use through the explanations provided by the Clinton Administration.


"These functions [signing statements] include (1) explaining to the public, and particularly to constituencies interested in the bill, what the President believes to be the likely effects of its adoption, (2) directing subordinate officers within the Executive Branch how to interpret or administer the enactment, and (3) informing Congress and the public that the Executive believes that a particular provision would be unconstitutional in certain of its applications, or that it is unconstitutional on its face, and that the provision will not be given effect by the Executive Branch to the extent that such enforcement would create an unconstitutional condition.

"Clinton did it too" doesn't make it right, however; while there are valid reasons for the inclusion of signing statements and the use of same in the place of a Presidential veto, the current implementation as practiced by the Bush Administration -- and thus setting a precedent for all future Administrations, regardless of party affiliation -- amounts to a frightening dissolution of the checks and balances placed upon the branches of the government by our founding fathers.

Below, I'll provide some additional context pertaining to the excerpt above and follow up with an excerpt from the Georgetown Law Faculty Blog that provides at least four major reasons why the Bush Administration's practice is objectionable.

IANAL: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Conyers-Byrd-GAO: Signing Statements Analyzed

[Note: Thanks to standingup for the grab. Link below is to the HTML version of the report, released by GAO on 17 December 2007.]

December 21, 2007

Conyers-Byrd GAO Report Shows Presidential Power Grab in Use of Signing Statements

(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued the following statement in response to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that shows that federal agencies have not followed public law in instances where presidential signing statements were issued. President Bush has used signing statements to object to parts of laws passed by Congress, which he has signed. Conyers and Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va) requested the report earlier this year to study the use of signing statements.

"This report provides further evidence that this Administration wants to pick and choose how it obeys the laws that Congress sets forth," Conyers said. "The precise role of signing statements is unclear but, as this report and an earlier report released in June suggest, in nine of 22 instances, federal agencies have not executed public laws to which the president objected in his signing statements. This administration's power grabbing attitude should be checked and balanced with more Congressional oversight of the use and abuse of presidential signing statements."

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GAO B-308603, Presidential Signing Statements Accompanying the Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Acts, June 18, 2007