Friday, January 06, 2006
Of basic constitutional procedure...
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
President Bush has yet to veto one piece of legislation presented to him. We would justifiably conclude that as far as the president is concerned every bill he has ever been presented with was sound law. But a recent phenomena has found its way into presidential bill signing that throws this conclusion into doubt. This phenomena is the presidential statement at signing.
The president and his legal advisors believe that the president has the constitutional right to authorize the torture of prisoners in the war on terror. Thus the recent McCain amendment to the defense appropriations bill to outlaw torture was threatened with veto during negotiations between the administration and senator McCain. Once the politics of the issue were demonstrated to be unbeatable, (after the house and senate both passed versions that were veto proof) the president agreed to sign the bill. Under normal circumstances that would be the end of the discussion, but this administration is hardly normal. Thus it is that upon signing the bill the president seemed to signal that he really did not intend to abide by the McCain amendment with the following statement upon signing the bill:
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.Having already determined that the administration asserts a constitutional basis to allow for torturing prisoners, this statement seems to justify actions specifically outlawed by the bill the president signed. How is it there can be this basic disconnect? How can the president sign a bill he intends full well to disregard and not be liable for sanction?
The answer to the question derives from a legal theory posited by current supreme court nominee Samuel Alito while he was legal cousel to president Reagan. Administrations long have experienced frustration that language in bills could be ambiguous and that the president may sign bills that he took to mean one thing only to have the courts later find congressional intent in a different light than the president allowed. Judge Alito felt the presidents understanding of the legislation he was signing should have a bearing on these considerations. The current administration has perverted the theory to fit their unconstitutional goals.
I mentioned previously that the president has yet to veto one single bill. But this administration has been party to a veritable explosion of presidential statements at signings. Thus we see that even though the president may expressly disapprove of language in a bill, it is his reasoning that by simply stating his view at the bill signing he is not bound by the law he just signed! The torture legislation is but one example of this, but here is an example of this unconstitutional power grab that is absolutely breath taking in its audacity:
In 2003, lawmakers tried to get a handle on Bush's use of signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill that required the department to inform Congress whenever the administration decided to ignore a legislative provision on constitutional grounds.It seems obvious to me that if the intent of the bill is clear, that the president has no constitutional authority to bypass the bill if he signs it. This isn't even a question of his interpretation. In these signing statements he just says flat out (to paraphrase) ... 'This part of the bill is wrong, so I'm not going to abide by it.'
Bush signed the bill, but issued a statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.
The constitution is clear here. The congress determines the language of the bill. The president then either signs or vetoes the bill. It really is that simple... unless you are this president. In which case you ignore the constitution and write your own language into the bill, and then sign that.
Senator McCain, not being a chump, noticed this and fired a shot over the bow of the administration today:
SENATOR JOHN W. WARNER, R-VA. AND SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ. STATEMENT ON PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING DETAINEE PROVISIONSThe power grab by the administration is finally being brought into the spotlight. We should send a message forthwith. The president is not above the constitution. This is yet another justification for the impeachment of president Bush. He has knowingly flouted legislation he signed, and his presidential statements at signing are an unconstitutional usurpation of congressional authority.
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006
"We believe the President understands Congress's intent in passing by very large majorities legislation governing the treatment of detainees included in the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations and Authorization bills. The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our Committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the Administration's implementation of the new law."
And BTW, "Take that, empty-headed anonymous food-trough wiper!"
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