Sunday, August 06, 2006

Not just his John Hancock

It's not a surprise that president Bush lasted almost six years into his presidency before he vetoed a bill. He has no need to veto a bill, even if he disagrees with it. Instead, he simply writes a statement with his signature on the bills that he doesn't like that says, in effect, he'll ignore the law when he decides he wants to. He cites executive authority as his grounds for being above the law.

For example, H.R. 2863 had McCain's amendment which prohibited American troops from committing torture. When Bush signed this Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, he added statements like:
The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that the President's authority to classify and control access to information bearing on the national security flows from the Constitution and does not depend upon a legislative grant of authority ... The executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action ... Because the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and take care that the laws be faithfully executed cannot be made by law subject to a requirement to consult with congressional committees or to involve them in executive decision-making, the executive branch shall construe the provision to require only notification.
These and other clauses in his signing statement are just fancy words that say Bush considers himself above the law and will ignore it when he sees fit. Bush did not explain why he wanted to be exempt from the prohibition against torture since he says in no uncertain terms that, "We do not torture." Regardless, this is not an isolated incident. Bush used similar statements when he recently signed H.R. 4939. In fact, he has challenged more than 750 laws in more than 100 signing statements.

America is tiring of this. Last month, an American Bar Association task force recommended that Congress pass legislation providing for some sort of judicial review of the signing statements. Senator Arlan Specter has responded. He said on the floor of the Senate, "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will ... authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."

It's about time. Congress has abdicated their authority to this president for too long. If congress doesn't wrest the legislative branch's supposedly equal power back from the executive branch soon, they'll lose so much power that they'll never be able to.

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