Obama's signing statement

Obama's signing statement

PostBy: pvolcko On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:08 pm

Hey Devil, I notice that at least two of the elements of the signing statement Obama issued with the latest spending bill were very familiar:

From: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1 ... 3049200481
WASHINGTON -- Democrats often criticized the Bush White House for its use of the presidential signing statement, a means by which the president can reject provisions of a bill he deems unconstitutional without vetoing the entire legislation. Now the approach is back.

President Barack Obama, after signing into law a $410 billion budget bill on Wednesday, declared five provisions in the bill to be unconstitutional and non-binding, including one that would effectively restrict U.S. troop deployments under U.N. command and another aimed at preventing punishment of whistleblowers.


Those two items sound very familiar. The same or closely related provisions in prior bills were nixed by Bush in signing statements according to that list you posted in the other thread.

I know. Bush used this practice very aggressively, thousands of times compared to Obama's five uses so far. But Obama is still very early in his term with plenty of time to establish his ranking in the signing statement declarations contest Presidents seem to have gotten into.

What is your take on Obama's use in this case? What about in general? Are you looking for him to merely curb his use relative to Bush (not a very tough mark to hit) or are you looking for a practical elimination of using signing statements in this manner? I'm assuming based on our prior discussion that the signing statement issue wasn't merely a matter of quantity for you, but rather that you have some more fundamental dislike of them as a practice regardless of who was issuing them. Is that correct?

I'm not being a smart ass here. You appear to have kept up on this far more during Bush's terms and have a far more developed opinion on this as an issue than I. Just wondering how Obama's having ventured into this realm rubs you.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: stockingfull On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:06 pm

I'll jump in and venture to say that signing statements are "chicken" vetoes.

In an age where bills inevitably get larded up with provisions Presidents don't want in bills they do want, it's a way to reject a piece of a bill without a "line-item" or other carve-out veto.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:07 pm

pvolcko wrote:I'm not being a smart ass here. You appear to have kept up on this far more during Bush's terms and have a far more developed opinion on this as an issue than I. Just wondering how Obama's having ventured into this realm rubs you.


Sorry, I didn't see this thread earlier Paul. I haven't had time to read the exact statement made in President Obama's signing statement but I will stand on my earlier opinion on the general subject of SS's.....I'm against them regardless of who is in the White House. If a President (any President) doesn't like the wording of a bill that crosses his desk...he should veto it....Plain & simple. No President should have the authority to change the will of the people's representatives on his own whims..
Now "line Item Veto's" are a different subject & may have promise, but that requires its own separate thread..
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: billw On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:11 pm

Sounds like signing statements are turning into an alternative to the line item veto.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: jpete On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:15 pm

Devil505 wrote: No President should have the authority to change the will of the people's representatives on his own whims....


No president does. Now can we find someone who will someone who will challenge the Constitutionality of them, we might get some where.

Signing statements carry the force of law. And the executive branch cannot make laws. Period.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:16 pm

billw wrote:Sounds like signing statements are turning into an alternative to the line item veto.


Yup...& as we saw in the last administration.....they are way to dangerous in the hands of a President who is unethical, ignorant, partisan, an idiot, says NUKULAR instead of Nuclear......You get my drift! :lol:
Last edited by Devil505 on Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:19 pm

jpete wrote:No president does. Now can we find someone who will someone who will challenge the Constitutionality of them, we might get some where.

Signing statements carry the force of law. And the executive branch cannot make laws. Period.


Funny how this only seems to have become a coal forum recognized problem fairly recently.........Oh....since Jan 21st 2009 to be exact?!? :P :lol:
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: jpete On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:21 pm

Devil505 wrote:
jpete wrote:No president does. Now can we find someone who will someone who will challenge the Constitutionality of them, we might get some where.

Signing statements carry the force of law. And the executive branch cannot make laws. Period.


Funny how this only seems to have become a coal forum recognized problem fairly recently.........Oh....since Jan 21st 2009 to be exact?!? :P :lol:


Don't make me break out the search and prove you wrong again Devil! I swear! I'll do it! ;)
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:23 pm

jpete wrote:Don't make me break out the search and prove you wrong again Devil! I swear! I'll do it! ;)


Did you come out against them when Bush was in office Jeff? (I don't remember but my respect for you would SHOOT up if that's the case) :up:

I'd even buy you a beer!! :cheers:
Last edited by Devil505 on Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: tvb On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:23 pm

billw wrote:Sounds like signing statements are turning into an alternative to the line item veto.


They've been used since the beginning of the Presidency from what I understand.

That said, I'm not a big fan of them but they are probably a necessary evil.

From what I know about this particular bill it's a leftover from the previous Congress and presidency and it was necessary to sign it quickly in order to keep the govt open and running. The items that were covered in the signing statements apparently had some constitutional issues as warned by the Justice Dept. if that is the case, it's probably a necessary evil. This is also the bill that has all the earmarks that have been news the past couple of days. Many of them were placed there by lawmakers who were voted out of office last November.

I hope going into the future, the signing statements are restricted to purely constitutional issues and not used at the whim and fancy of whatever the president wants as was routine in the previous administration.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: jpete On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:43 pm

Devil505 wrote:
jpete wrote:Don't make me break out the search and prove you wrong again Devil! I swear! I'll do it! ;)


Did you come out against them when Bush was in office Jeff? (I don't remember but my respect for you would SHOOT up if that's the case) :up:

I'd even buy you a beer!! :cheers:


Actually, it was in the same thread I posted earlier! :D

I'm a Ron Paul guy too. GWB showed the Democrats just what they could get away with. Between signing statements, and labelling people as unpatriotic if they didn't vote his way, I think the Dems will make George Bush look like George Washington if they get in.


I prefer Captain Morgan and Coke! :D :cheers:

I'll keep looking in another forum I'm on. The search function is a little imprecise.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:46 pm

jpete wrote:I prefer Captain Morgan and Coke! :D :cheers:

I'll keep looking in another forum I'm on. The search function is a little imprecise.


Close enough jeff :up:




(Slides a Captain Morgan and Coke to Jeff :beer:
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: tvb On: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:56 pm

Now now, you two :discuss:
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: pvolcko On: Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:08 am

Thanks for your responses. I have to do some research on signing statements as a general matter, but here's my take so far:

Isn't a signing statement nothing more than a written record of how a president intends to enforce the law he is signing? If that's correct, then the idea that a signing statement "carries the force of law" kind of misses the mark. No court would be bound to judge a case based on a signing statement. No later president would be bound to a former president's signing statement (they are not an executive order, more a diary of intent, but even if they were exec orders the next Pres could override with his own order). Signing statements don't alter the law being signed, their only power is in the executive branch's power to enforce the law. They "carry the force of law" only for as long as a president adheres to them in execution of his office and enforcement of law.

So the question really is this: Is a President correct to not enforce a provision of law that he believes is unconstitutional?

Certainly a President gets to weigh in on the constitutionality of bills by either vetoing or signing them, but once they are law he has a duty to enforce them. I know, this may sound counter intuitive. If a law is unconstitutional then it obviously should not be enforced, right? I say wrong.

There are only two ways to get a suspected bad law off the books. Repeal it through new legislation or get it overturned in a court. If a legislature just passed a law with unconstitutional provisions, it is safe to say they aren't about to repeal the law unless there is some blatantly obvious oversight involved. That only leaves judicial review as a practical way to get a suspected bad law off the books in relatively short order.

If a president doesn't enforce a law believed to be unconstitutional then how can anyone try to get the law overturned in a court? In order to do so the law must be applied in at least a token way so that there is someone with standing to bring a case before a court. If a president doesn't do so, even if it is against his better judgment, then the law will stay on the books, a time bomb waiting to go off when the next President comes along. That president may make a non-token enforcement effort, one with far greater detriment to society than would have happened under a token enforcement effort.

And the President is only one man and is therefore fallible. Making the token enforcement effort to invite judicial review is a humble act and a hedge against a President's bad legal and perhaps moral/ethical judgment. The people and the President him/herself are protected against bad law by a token enforcement effort and allowing the challenge to come through. If he's right and it is found to be unconstitutional, then a great service has been done by getting the law off the books. If he is wrong and the law is found to be constitutional through judicial review, then obviously it is incumbent upon the president to enforce it to the extent possible.

The only class of provision in a new law that would be tricky is when the legislature tries to force the hand of the executive in carrying out actions that are traditionally the sole purview of the executive. An example might be a provision where the President is mandated to adjust the deployment levels of ICE agents in a region. The legislature can certainly cut or increase budgets, but trying to insinuate themselves into the command structure and the tactical/strategic deployment of law enforcement (or military) is another matter. In that kind of scenario, there is no token effort that can be applied and there is no legal challenge that can reasonably come from a criminal or civil case. One either adheres to the provision or not. In those cases, it is a purely political matter and signing statements are as good as anything to get the message across to the legislature (and the voters). And as such, the only options are to let it slide, to pass a budget change to press the point, to impeach the president, or to trumpet the act (or rather non-act) as a campaign issue when reelection season comes around.

Hopefully those kinds of provisions are far and few between, if they aren't then the legislature needs tighten up its game. But the President too needs to be very careful not to try to fit every provision to this type of case. Bush quite likely got carried away with the use of signing statements. For example, striking out 2000+ provisions in a single bill sounds excessive. Of course many bills are excessively large and stuffed full of crap that doesn't rightly belong there in a sane world. I also believe that congress is full of a bunch of political chickens and quite likely got carried away themselves in trying to make Bush do what they wanted without using the politically tricky, valid tools they had at their discretion, namely control of the appropriations process, budgets, and control of the legislative agenda. The fact that even Obama is using them, particularly this early in his tenure with the most politically pliant and aligned congress a President has seen in many many years... I tend to think congress is more responsible for these signing statements being necessary than the President is for having to use them.
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Re: Obama's signing statement

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:30 am

John Dean's (Counsel to Nixon) take on signing statements:
http://www.ask.com/bar?q=presidential+signing+statements&page=1&qsrc=178&ab=0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwrit.news.findlaw.com%2Fdean%2F20060113.html
This link is broken, either the page no longer exists or there is some other issue like a typo.


America Presidency Project
http://www.ask.com/bar?q=presidential+signing+statements&page=1&qsrc=178&ab=2&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.presidency.ucsb.edu%2Fsigningstatements.php
This link is broken, either the page no longer exists or there is some other issue like a typo.




MEMORANDUM FOR BERNARD N. NUSSBAUM, November 3, 1993
COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT

http://www.ask.com/bar?q=presidential+signing+statements&page=1&qsrc=178&ab=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usdoj.gov%2Folc%2Fsigning.htm
This link is broken, either the page no longer exists or there is some other issue like a typo.
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