Bush signing statements -slipping past the public

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Main Question or Discussion Point

For every bill passed by congress a president has the option to add to, or take away from that bill. Bush has set a new record.

Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements on more than 750 new laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution. The federal government is instructed to follow the statements when it enforces the laws. Here are 10 examples and the dates Bush signed them:
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/examples_of_the_presidents_signing_statements/

For the first time in my life I feel that there is an irreversable change empowering the executive branch. And it is happening in ways that I previously would have read only in a work of fiction.

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Rach3
Astonishing! He is absolutely fearless in his pursuit of an alternative reality of law. So he does, in fact, reserve the right to torture whenever he feels like it, whatever Congress says. Horrific! Look at this one:

Dec. 30: When requested, scientific information ''prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay."

Bush's signing statement: The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/examples_of_the_presidents_signing_statements/

There you go - he censors scientific research, he admits it proudly!

The American bar association thinks that the statements are unconstitutional also.

Legal Group: Bush's "Signing Statements" Unconstitutional
The American Bar Association (ABA) accused President Bush of abusing his executive power under the Constitution by his use of "signing statements" -- the practice of approving a law while reserving the right to disregard certain parts of it at a later time. Officials in the U.S. Justice Department deemed the criticism unwarranted, declaring that the current President's use of signing statements is legitimate under the law, and is no different than practices employed by past presidents.
http://commonlaw.findlaw.com/2006/07/legal_group_bus.html

Bush has signed more than all previous presidents combined. There is a definite advantage to having the Attorney General in ones hip pocket.

This is just one paragraph of a signing statement.

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks. Further, in light of the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2001 in Alexander v. Sandoval, and noting that the text and structure of Title X do not create a private right of action to enforce Title X, the executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action. Finally, given the decision of the Congress reflected in subsections 1005(e) and 1005(h) that the amendments made to section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, shall apply to past, present, and future actions, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in that section, and noting that section 1005 does not confer any constitutional right upon an alien detained abroad as an enemy combatant, the executive branch shall construe section 1005 to preclude the Federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over any existing or future action, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in section 1005.
The bill signed was:
"H.R. 2863, the "Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 2006"

The full signing staement is located at:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051230-8.html [Broken]

Some of this is business as usuall in D.C. Because politicians are allowed to mix oranges and apples in that they frequently include something in a bill that has nothing to do with that bill. But it also is a good example of how missuse of signing statements can allow potential nefarious actions to be slipped past the scrutiny of the general public.

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Amp1
This is a prime example of why the founding Fathers included checkes and balances on the branches of government. Bush is blatantly violating them.

devil-fire
Rach3 said:
Astonishing! He is absolutely fearless in his pursuit of an alternative reality of law. So he does, in fact, reserve the right to torture whenever he feels like it, whatever Congress says. Horrific! Look at this one:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/examples_of_the_presidents_signing_statements/

There you go - he censors scientific research, he admits it proudly!

how in any situation can censoring scienfic information from congress in any way impair national security? i can think of some creative ways this could be abused but i cant think of any positive uses for this

BobG
Homework Helper
Yet another example; this one from December 20th for a bill so boring the signing and its accompanying statement slipped by without notice.

The bill, the http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/77xx/doc7709/hr6407pgo.pdf [Broken]. The first two pages capture the essence of the changes: changes to pensions and health care of postal workers.

The http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/12/20061220-6.html [Broken]. The sixth paragraph "construes" that federal officials may open the mail without a warrant.

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
H.R. 6407, the "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act" has to do with the expenditures of the Postal Service, so where does Bush come off with interpreting Title 39 of the US Code.
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, . . .
Well - reading USC 39, 404 - there is no 404(c)! But then that could be an out-of-date version, or is Bush making things up, or is there an error in the Whitehouse publication?

For that matter, there is no 1010(e)!
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+39USC1010 [Broken]

And there is no 404 in 49CFR - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/49cfrv5_99.html [Broken]

nor is there 1010 in 49 CFR - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/49cfrv6_99.html#1000

I guess making up laws is not so important. Besides, the legislative branch is supposed to enact laws and the presidential authority is limited to agreeing (signing) or disagreeing (vetoing) with the law.

Edit: 49 CFR is wrong.

But there is no 404 or 1010 in 39 CFR either - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_00/39cfrv1_00.html

So the Title 49 refers to US Code.

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D H
Staff Emeritus
Well - reading USC 49, 404 - there is no 404(c)! But then that could be an out-of-date version, or is Bush making things up, or is there an error in the Whitehouse publication?
HR 6407 created a 404(c): From http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h109-6407" [Broken]
SEC. 102. POSTAL SERVICES.

(a) IN GENERAL- Section 404 of title 39, United States Code, is amended--

(1) in subsection (a), by striking paragraph (6) and by redesignating paragraphs (7) through (9) as paragraphs (6) through (8), respectively; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

(c)(1) In this subsection, the term nonpostal service' means any service that is not a postal service defined under section 102(5).

(2) Nothing in this section shall be considered to permit or require that the Postal Service provide any nonpostal service, except that the Postal Service may provide nonpostal services which were offered as of January 1, 2006, as provided under this subsection.

(3) Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the Postal Regulatory Commission shall review each nonpostal service offered by the Postal Service on the date of enactment of that Act and determine whether that nonpostal service shall continue, taking into account--

(A) the public need for the service; and

(B) the ability of the private sector to meet the public need for the service.

(4) Any nonpostal service not determined to be continued by the Postal Regulatory Commission under paragraph (3) shall terminate.

(5) If the Postal Regulatory Commission authorizes the Postal Service to continue a nonpostal service under this subsection, the Postal Regulatory Commission shall designate whether the service shall be regulated under this title as a market dominant product, a competitive product, or an experimental product.'.

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BobG
Homework Helper
H.R. 6407, the "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act" has to do with the expenditures of the Postal Service, so where does Bush come off with interpreting Title 39 of the US Code.

Well - reading http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+39USC404 [Broken] - there is no 404(c)! But then that could be an out-of-date version, or is Bush making things up, or is there an error in the Whitehouse publication?

For that matter, there is no 1010(e)!
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+39USC1010

And there is no 404 in 49CFR - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/49cfrv5_99.html

nor is there 1010 in 49 CFR - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/49cfrv6_99.html#1000

I guess making up laws is not so important. Besides, the legislative branch is supposed to enact laws and the presidential authority is limited to agreeing (signing) or disagreeing (vetoing) with the law.
That's because it's Title 39, not 49. Actually, my original link was to the cost estimate rather than the actual bill. The actual bill, HR 6407, has the applicable info: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:3:./temp/~c109seu8Yp:e203378: [Broken]

Section 1010(e) of the bill does change section 404 to:

(e) AUTHORITY TO FIX RATES AND CLASSES GENERALLY; REQUIREMENT RELATING TO LETTERS SEALED AGAINST INSPECTION- Section 404 of title 39, United States Code (as amended by section 102) is further amended by redesignating subsections (b) and (c) as subsections (d) and (e), respectively, and by inserting after subsection (a) the following:

(b) Except as otherwise provided, the Governors are authorized to establish reasonable and equitable classes of mail and reasonable and equitable rates of postage and fees for postal services in accordance with the provisions of chapter 36. Postal rates and fees shall be reasonable and equitable and sufficient to enable the Postal Service, under best practices of honest, efficient, and economical management, to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the kind and quality adapted to the needs of the United States.

(c) The Postal Service shall maintain one or more classes of mail for the transmission of letters sealed against inspection. The rate for each such class shall be uniform throughout the United States, its territories, and possessions. One such class shall provide for the most expeditious handling and transportation afforded mail matter by the Postal Service. No letter of such a class of domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the addressee.'.
Boldface section is the section that Bush 'clarified' in his signing statement.

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
That's because it's Title 39, not 49. Actually, my original link was to the cost estimate rather than the actual bill. The actual bill, HR 6407, has the applicable info: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:3:./temp/~c109seu8Yp:e203378: [Broken]
Ack! My mistake. I linked to USC 39 - but typed 49.

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
That's because it's Title 39, not 49. Actually, my original link was to the cost estimate rather than the actual bill. The actual bill, HR 6407, has the applicable info: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:3:./temp/~c109seu8Yp:e203378: [Broken]

Section 1010(e) of the bill does change section 404 to:

Boldface section is the section that Bush 'clarified' in his signing statement.
Bushes signing statement -
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, 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.
No letter of such a class of domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the addressee.'.
I don't see how the administration can legally do a search without a warrant when the law as enacted by Congress clearly requires a warrant. Basically, if exigent circumstances means that the government can intercept and open mail without warrant, then Bush is arguing that he can overide the public law at his discretion.

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There is a definite advantage to having the Attorney General in ones hip pocket.
The Attorney General is appointed by and serves at the discretion of the President. All Presidents have enjoyed this advantage.

BobG
Homework Helper
I don't see how the administration can legally do a search without a warrant when the law as enacted by Congress clearly requires a warrant. Basically, if exigent circumstances means that the government can intercept and open mail without warrant, then Bush is arguing that he can overide the public law at his discretion.
We're in a war against terror - a long war that could last decades. That's exigent circumstances that will last quite a long time.

We're in a war against terror - a long war that could last decades. That's exigent circumstances that will last quite a long time.
It could easily last decades, but exactly how does the administration define exigent circumstances. So far they seem to have their own definition of everything. Does exigent apply to a bunch of kids planning a war protest? My opinion is that with the Bush administration, yes it does.

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
My understanding of these things is that they are basically a way for a president to express dissent, but they are not themselves enforceable as legislation. The real issue would be if he actually broke the law and followed what he wrote in the signing statements instead. Simply saying he has a right that he doesn't actually have isn't that big of a deal, but exercising a right he doesn't have is.

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
My understanding of these things is that they are basically a way for a president to express dissent, but they are not themselves enforceable as legislation. The real issue would be if he actually broke the law and followed what he wrote in the signing statements instead. Simply saying he has a right that he doesn't actually have isn't that big of a deal, but exercising a right he doesn't have is.
I disagree.

From Charlie Savage's article which broke the signing statement story:

When Congress passed a massive energy package in August, for example, it strengthened whistle-blower protections for employees at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The provision was included because lawmakers feared that Bush appointees were intimidating nuclear specialists so they would not testify about safety issues related to a planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada -- a facility the administration supported, but both Republicans and Democrats from Nevada opposed.

When Bush signed the energy bill, he issued a signing statement declaring that the executive branch could ignore the whistle-blower protections.

Bush's statement did more than send a threatening message to federal energy specialists inclined to raise concerns with Congress;
So here's the deal: this single signing statement sends any potential whistleblower back into his/her closet and the point of passing the whistleblower protections in the bill has been essentially nullified.

That's one reason that makes it quite big of a deal.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/bush_challenges_hundreds_of_laws/?page=1

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loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Is there any history of a president actually doing what he says he can do in a signing statement? I can certainly think of instances of a president disregarding legislation or court rulings he doesn't like, but has it ever happened because of a signing statement? It seems to me that something like this:

Congress has also twice passed laws forbidding the military from using intelligence that was not ''lawfully collected," including any information on Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches.

Congress first passed this provision in August 2004, when Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was still a secret, and passed it again after the program's existence was disclosed in December 2005.

On both occasions, Bush declared in signing statements that only he, as commander in chief, could decide whether such intelligence can be used by the military.
Is a much bigger deal. In a case like this, he is actually disregarding the law entirely and just doing whatever he pleases. Its actions like this that raise a concern. Signing statements themselves are nothing new and do not give him this authority. I ask in part because of the date on this article. I remember when this first came a while back and it was one of those "issues of the day," and it was quickly forgotten and never seemed much of a deal.

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Rach3
It's worse than we thought!

http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/images/scientific_integrity/Finalist9.jpg [Broken]

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus