Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Signing Statements" a.k.a. Line Item Veto

I didn't know that presidenta could sign a bill, then declare a provision of that bill unconstituional in his interprative instructions to his executive branch. This practice known as issuing "Signing Statements" apparently has been around for some time.

The New York Times covers this issue with a poorly worded and misleading "Obama's Embrace of a Bush Tactic Riles Congress," which at least they redeem with a fuller recount saying:

Since the 19th century, presidents have occasionally signed bills while calling a provision unconstitutional. But the practice was rare until President Ronald Reagan. He and his successors, including Bill Clinton, began issuing signing statements much more frequently and challenging far more provisions.

So it's not really a bush tactic, nor even a partisan one, but one that's been used for a long time, though become more common since Reagan. Since then the parties of the president have reversed 3 times. They also note that it's use peaked with approximately 1200 bill challenged durint Bush Jr's two terms, somewhat redeeming the healine.

It seems that basically presidents have found a way to get a line item veto. I remember various presidents particularly Bill Clinton trying to get a line item veto passed but it never worked. Personally I'd rather see them give the president a line item veto so the process is more transparent. I'd also rather see ALL political donations itemized and enumerated on the web so donations have total transperency too. I'll keep dreaming.

It also reminds me of the interprative philosophy of judical interpretation. The most prominent example being the use of the "just and necessary" clause as a sort of carte blanche for judicial decisions. It seems a little suspicious to me, but it's difficult to pass judgement. I'm not a lawyer or a politician. I think it's just good for us citizens to be informed.

1 comment:

Kareem said...

This really is not constitutional but I don't think any court is going to ever touch it. The question is whether the executive, who enforces the law, has the right to be selective in his understanding of what Congress is instructing him to do. Signing statements really cross the line into making rather than just enforcing law, and as a result it is BS and probably violates our Constitution. Finally, while I know you are strenuously bipartisan I think it is really fair to lay the blame for this at the feet of the Republicans. Clinton and Obama combined wouldn't equal 25% of the signing statements issued by Reagan or Bush. Especially Junior Bush, who went hog wild on this stuff. As always, while both parties are evil there is a clear lesser evil.