ILLEGAL USE OF SIGNING STATEMENTS
- March 20, 2001 - January 12, 2007
Bush issues at least 126 signing statements challenging over 1,149 laws (Christopher Kelley, Ph.D). The exact number of signing statements is unknown as the Administration refuses to release this information. Examples of signing statements include:
March 9, 2006: Bush signed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which contained requirements for Congressional oversight of Executive use of the Act's powers. In a statement immediately following the signing ceremony, however, it was revealed that Bush "did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers." (Boston Globe, March 24, 2006)
December 5, 2005 & January 6, 2006: Two Detainee Treatment Acts were signed into law accompanied by a signing statement. Part of the signing statement read, ''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief." When asked about the statement, a senior administration official said "the president intended to reserve the right to use harsher methods in special situations involving national security." David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said "The signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me." (Boston Globe, January 4, 2006)
Dec. 25, 2006: Bush writes a signing statement asserting the Executive's right to open mail without a warrant. "The executive branch shall construe [the Law], which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."
October 4, 2006: In the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed a law setting minimum standards for the job of FEMA Director. This was in direct response to the botched job done by Michael Brown, Bush's choice to lead the agency, who had been a politically connected hire with no prior experience in emergency management. The law said the president must nominate someone who has "a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management" and "not less than five years of executive leadership." At the signing ceremony, Bush signed the bill without any hint of objection, but included a signing statement saying the law "purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office." (Boston Globe, October 6, 2006) (Annotated Text of Known Signing Statements)
- July 2006
The American Bar Association
“Blue Ribbon Task Force” voted and unanimously approved a resolution which found that the presidential assertions of constitutional authority within his signing statements “undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.”
They also voted
unanimously to "oppose, as contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers, a President's issuance of signing statements to claim the authority or state the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress;"
"Urge the President, if he believes that any provision of a bill pending before Congress would be unconstitutional if enacted, to communicate such concerns to Congress prior to passage;"
"Urge the President to confine any signing statements to his views regarding the meaning, purpose, and significance of bills, and to use his veto power if he believes that all or part of a bill is unconstitutional"
(Resolution and Report)