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Kerry Bill Would Prevent President from Misusing Signing Statements

by Pamela Leavey

With the White House in “Panic Mode” over the GOP revolt on Bush’s Iraq War, Senator John Kerry gave them a little more cause earlier today when he announced that he will co-sponsor legislation aimed at preventing the President from writing so-called “signing statements” when he signs bills – a little known measure that allows the White House to effectively circumvent Congress.

Under the new bill, the president could not issue a signing statement if it substantially altered the original legislation. Kerry is co-sponsoring the legislation with Republican Senator Arlen Specter of PA. The measure could be voted on as early as this month if it is added as an amendment to the defense spending bill.

“The Bush Administration’s abuse of signing statements is clearly unconstitutional and renders the Constitution’s system of checks and balances null and void,” Kerry said. “With these statements, the President has effectively subverted the law and the legislative process without actually ever using a veto. No administration should be allowed to cherry-pick legislation this way. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this legislation and I want to again thank the Boston Globe for shining a bright light on this abuse.”

Reporter Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe first reported on Bush’s signing statements on April 30, 2006. There’s more here.

4 Responses to “Kerry Bill Would Prevent President from Misusing Signing Statements”

  1. I’m not sure what this new bill would add to the Adminsitrative Procedure Act that was passed as one offshoot of the Nixon abuse of authority. Any executive branch action that is “arbitrary and capricious” within the context of the authorizing legislation being implemented (“failure to act” is an action) is already subject to Court challenge. I wonder, then, what advantage a new bill will have over just enforcing existing law.

    In both cases Bushco will simply behave any way it wants to unless and until it is brought to heel by a Court.

  2. Seems like Kerry and Specter are trying to further clarify the law since Bush seems to think it doesn’t apply.

    Politically it keeps Bush’s feet to the fire. He doesn’t look good if he vetoes it, signs it and doesn’t enforce it, or worst of all, signs it and then puts a signing statement on it.

    Given the history of how stupid he can get moves, I would put a small wager on the last. 🙄

  3. Sen. Kerry’s history of speeches on presidential signing statements can be found at: Sen. Kerry’s Record of Speeches

    Sen. Specter’s speech on presidential signing statements can be found at: Sen. Specter’s Record of Speeches

    For more information on presidential signing statements, please visit Project Vote Smart or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

  4. That’s funny!