Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Bush Administration's Adversarial Relationship with Congress

The Bush Administration's Adversarial Relationship with Congress --
as Illustrated by Its Refusal to Even Provide the Number of Signing Statements Issued by President Bush

Friday, Jul. 14, 2006
This summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held hearings on President Bush's uses and abuses of signing statements. Technically, these are statements by the President accompanying his signing of legislation. In this Administration, however, signing statements have been used as a dodgy practice of telling the Congress to go to hell.

Rather than vetoing bills, Bush issues vague statements to try to cut them off at the knees even as he purports to give them legs. These statements say, in essence, that he may or may not enforce this or that provision of a given law, depending on whether he thinks the provision is unconstitutional.

Given Bush's extraordinarily broad claim of Presidential power, he tends to deem any law that conflicts with his plans "unconstitutional." And despite the Supreme Court's recent Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision clearly and sharply repudiating this view of his powers, Bush is likely to go right on doing so.

In truth, Bush himself does not have a clue about what he is doing, for this ploy is being guided by Vice President Cheney's office; I am told it is David Addington leading the way. Though carried out by Bush, it is best seen as another of Cheney's undertakings to enhance presidential power by neutering Congress. And it is working.

Bush's Use of Signing Statements Is Unprecedented and Unconstitutional

Bush's defenders have portrayed his actions with signing statements as standard operating procedure for all recent presidents. In particular, they have cited Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton's signing statement practices as precedents. But Bush's use of the signing statement is not only non-standard, it is egregious, and plainly itself unconstitutional.

The Constitution, and the president's oath of office swearing to uphold it, require a president to veto legislation he finds unconstitutional, and send it back to Congress so its members can correct the flaw. The system is simple and wise - and Bush is subverting it.

In over six years in office, Bush has not vetoed a single bill. Therefore, he has avoided the political costs those vetoes would have rightly entailed. Instead, Bush has issues a steady stream of signing statements claiming that the very bills he is signing have constitutional problems.....