ABA says President Bush’s signing statements undermine Constitution.

Seems even the lawyers are getting in on the act of bashing President Bush and his habit of using signing statements to detail which parts of new laws he feels he can just ignore if he wants to. The American Bar Association slammed Bush on Sunday saying the signing statements undermine the Constitution and the separation of powers:

In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.

In signing a statutory ban on torture and other national security laws, Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.

The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”

Not that Bush is the first to undertake this practice, but he’s abused it to a degree that puts past presidents to shame and sets up dangerous precedents for future Administrations. The ABA is recommending that Congress pass a law requiring the president to “set forth in full the reasons and legal basis” any signing statement he makes that claims the right to disregard or decline enforcement. They’re also recommending that signing statements be subject to judicial review. Preferably both options will be made realities, but at the very least the former option should be made law.

4 thoughts on “ABA says President Bush’s signing statements undermine Constitution.

  1. Does the law go into effect before or after the president adds a signing statement?
    Not hard to imagine Bush adding the statement, “But I ain’t gotta follow it! So thar.”

    – Mal

  2. While congresscritters hate getting their noses tweaked, I can’t imagine they’ll buck the president too much on this—until, perhaps, he’s in the last days of his lame duckiness come December ‘08, and they rush through something to keep some liberal-type from doing the same thing.

    I have serious doubts about the congressional or judicial oversight suggested in the article, btw.  Bush and his folks work on their own interpretation of what executive power means and how it operates indepedently of oversight by the other branches.  He’s just as likely to ignore such a law as he has been to ignore other laws he’s been handed to sign.  Until someone’s willing to follow through with impeachment proceedings, it’s not like he has much to worry about.

  3. In signing a statutory ban on torture … Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.

    Look out for the Texan with the cattle prod- he can do what he likes…

  4. ***Dave: Until someone’s willing to follow through with impeachment proceedings, it’s not like he has much to worry about.

    And that ain’t gonna happen coz he’s been sexually clean (so far?) and every good American knows that’s the most important thing. smile

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