Both Parties in House Slam Obama Signing Statement

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Normally, if a U.S. president objects to a law passed by Congress, he vetoes it. But there is another mechanism that presidents claim allows them to ignore a certain section of a law if the president says he considers it unconstitutional or that it might “interfere with his ability to conduct foreign policy.” It’s called the “signing statement,” and a president may issue such a statement at the same time that he signs a bill or shortly thereafter. Although signing statements have been around for a long time, and most of them are innocuous, George W. Bush’s use of them brought signing statements into the realm of controversy because he used them to ignore a law that forbade torture and others that required transparency and congressional oversight of the activities of the Executive Branch. 

When Bush used signing statements to ignore laws, the Republican members of Congress defended the president’s right to do so. But now that President Barack Obama is following the same strategy, Republicans have awakened to the view that signing statements are a violation of the separation of powers between the branches of government. Since he became president, Obama has issued seven signing statements. However it was one statement, signed on June 24, relating to an amendment to a State Department funding bill, that riled the members of both parties in the House of Representatives. Obama said that requirements intended to pressure the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to strengthen labor and environmental standards and to require the Treasury Department to report on World Bank and IMF activities, would “interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations.”
In response, the House this week passed a follow-up amendment by a margin of 429-2 warning Obama that if he ignored the restrictions, he risked seeing Congress cut off funds. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) said, “We do this not just on behalf of this institution, but on behalf of this democracy. There’s kind of a unilateralism, an undemocratic, unreachable way about these signing statements.”
Republicans, who did not support the original bill, were happy to join in to pass the amendment. Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) said the House wanted to send a message: “Ignore the statute at your peril.”
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Presidential Signing Statements: Hoover-Obama (by John T. Woolley, University of California, Santa Barbara)
Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws (by Charlie Savage, Boston Globe)


Daniel Adams 13 years ago
Wow. I didn't know the Saudi's were so bad . What news! Looking for more stuff about them. Who are they backing in Iraq? Cheers, D.A.

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