Monday, July 24, 2006

ABA Report Criticizes Bush Signing Statements

President Bush's habit of issuing dubious "signing statements" has been a frequent topic here. See: Bush "Signing Statement" Allows Him To Circumvent Ban On Torture, Patriot Act Signing Statement Skullduggery, Bush Reserves Right To Disobey More Than 750 Laws, and New Assertiveness By Congress and the Courts.

A new ABA report picks up where I left off.

A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined.

The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements. (...)

The report seemed likely to fuel the controversy over signing statements, which Bush has used to challenge laws including a congressional ban on torture, a request for data on the USA Patriot Act, whistle-blower protections and the banning of U.S. troops in fighting rebels in Colombia. (...)

Bush has vetoed only one bill since taking office, a bill approved by Congress last week relaxing his limits on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. 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. (...)

Task force members said the nature of the challenges has also changed under Bush, with many objections being lodged under the "unitary executive" theory, the idea that congressional checks on the president's power are limited.

If the president has constitutional problems with a bill, the task force said, he should convey those concerns to Congress before it reaches his desk. The panel said signing statements should not be a substitute for vetoing bills the president considers unconstitutional.

"The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal," panel members wrote. "The Constitution is not what the President says it is."

No kidding, considering what President Bush says it is:

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

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