Update: More on Obama and Signing Statements

April 17th, 2011

By Dan Miller

President Barack ObamaShortly after submission of my previous post, several more relevant articles appeared.  Here Candidate Obama’s interpretation of his 2008 message on signing statements was explained. As I understand it, it means that President Obama will issue signing statements only concerning legislation he doesn’t like, not legislation Former President Bush doesn’t like.

“While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability,” Obama told the Globe.

This report notes that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), “the chief sponsor of the effort to defund administration-appointed advisers known as ‘czars,’ . . . reacted angrily” to the signing statement.

The President does not have the option of choosing which laws he will follow and which he will ignore.

The president knew that the czar amendment was part of the overall budget deal he agreed to, and if he cannot be trusted to keep his word on this, then how can he be trusted as we negotiate on larger issues like federal spending and the economy.

A bipartisan coalition in Congress agreed that President Obama was circumventing the constitution by appointing these czars without the scrutiny of Senate confirmation. The United States is not a kingdom run by a political dictator, and President Obama needs to quickly reverse course and abide by the law eliminating the czars that were part of the budget resolution agreed to by Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, and President Obama himself.

Continue reading this article at The PJ Tatler »

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2 Responses to “Update: More on Obama and Signing Statements”

  1. Tom Carter |

    This is yet another example of a candidate making a statement or a promise during a campaign that he’s later unable to follow through with. Obama tends to float above the details of issues, but he had lots of smart political types around his campaign. They shouldn’t have let him make that flat statement.

    Signing statements aren’t unconstitutional, at least in any formal sense. Beyond that, those that address constitutional issues, such as the one discussed here, seem appropriate. If the president feels that Congress has exceeded its authority and/or impinged on the Executive’s, it would seem that he can (and must, in keeping with his oath) refuse to enforce that part of a law. These statements, along with executive impoundment of appropriated funds, has been going on virtually since the beginning of the Republic. Congress took away the president’s assumed authority to impound funds during the Nixon Administration by passing a law; maybe they can do the same thing about signing statements, but it would seem doubtful.

    And, as usual, hypocrisy abounds. When Bush used signing statements, Democrats were outraged. When Obama does the same thing, Republicans are outraged. Tiresome.

  2. Dan Miller |


    It is one thing for the President to impound funds appropriated for specific purposes or to refuse affirmatively to enforce laws he deems unconstitutional. Were the Congress to pass a bill including, among various innocuous provisions, one requiring that the President round up all “Native Americans” and summarily execute them, the President could and should, of course, not act on that provision. That would involve presidential non-action.

    It is rather another thing to spend funds appropriations of which had been denied by the Congress. That involves presidential action: affirmatively spending funds specifically appropriated for other purposes. Can he lawfully do that? If, in a general appropriation bill, the Congress declined to appropriate any funds at all for the EPA, could he divert to the EPA funds appropriated for the FCC? I don’t think he could do so legally.

    There is another issue: According to reports noted in the article and update, President Obama was personally involved in the negotiations leading to the bill and apparently agreed to it. He certainly took ample personal credit for averting the horrors of a shutdown, including closure of the Washington Monument. Do watch the video at the link; he tells the heartwarming story of some children in Colorado who had saved their money to pay for a trip to Washington and who will now be able to visit the Washington Monument and be appropriately inspired. Had he stated during the negotiations that he intended to ignore some of the bill’s provisions, the negotiations would likely have collapsed, the federal government would have “shut down” and the hearts of those children would have been broken. Even if President Obama had the inherent power to violate some of the negotiated provisions, doing so seems very unlikely to ease the way for negotiations on the 2012 fiscal year budget; some children may even be unable to visit the Washington Monument when the 2011 fiscal year ends. Instead of positioning himself to avert that calamity he has, through his recent action, been deemed to have shown that he can’t be trusted. That does not seem to be a tenable position for the President to put himself or the Congress in.

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