Monday, May 01, 2006

Constitution 101. Where is the clause about signing statements?

Let me start this post by pasting article seven of the constitution for my readers convenience. It reads:
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.
This seems a very simple constitutional directive in how a bill becomes law. The steps by which a bill is vetoed, if having been determined to be unacceptable by the President, are quite clear. There really should be no reason for dispute in this regard, yet President Bush has taken steps that are clearly anti-constitutional in nature in the name of protecting the constitution. The language used by the administration, yet again, proves Orwellian in nature insofar as the intent of the President is exactly the opposite of what he says he is doing.

The Boston Globe is the most recent news outlet to report on the widespread use of the Presidential signing statement. Here is a post on Kos I made after the Presidential signing statement on the McCain anti-torture law. What has brought the most recent coverage is the signing statement used by the President when he signed the extension of the Patriot Act. The President simply gave a statement after signing the bill that says that he, as commander in chief, is not obligated to follow the bill he just signed as regards reporting to Congress on how the law is implemented.

Quite clearly, the constitutional recourse given the President for action against a law which he does not approve for whatever reason is to veto that law. No where in the constitution is there a clause allowing the President to change the language, or intent of a bill presented him by Congress. However President Bush has yet to veto any bill presented him. He has chosen to change the meaning of over 750 bills which he has signed with these signing statements. The President clearly is damaging the constitution even as he claims to be acting to protect it.

The Boston Globe article mentions several blatant attempts by the President to usurp power granted by the constitution to Congress. For example the Congress on four separate occasions has passed laws forbidding the use of military forces in combat in the civil war in Columbia. The President has signed those laws each time, and then asserted his belief that as Commander in Chief that he is not obligated to follow the law he just signed! Even if you agree with the logic that Congress ought not have a role in this type of decision, we should all agree that the way for the President to approach these laws in a constitutional manner would be to veto them. The Congress twice has given the President bills which he signed into law specifying that the U.S. military could not use intelligence on U.S. citizens that was not lawfully gathered, specifically invoking the fourth amendment to the constitution as being a protection for U.S. citizens. Yet the President after signing the bills asserted that only he could determine which intelligence was used by the military.

To my conservative friends who may occasionally read this blog, I appeal to you and your love of our constitutional form of government, of the very ideals that make America what it is... don't let this man take that from us. I full well understand that most of my libertarian friends have come around (nods to britt) but I appeal to the died in the wool Republican activist.

Just consider this my friends. If President Bush can get away with this blatantly unconstitutional behavior, what is to stop President Rodham-Clinton if she gets elected? Or President Obama? The only thing would be their sense of patriotism, of true honor and duty for the real meaning of the constitution. You had better hope and pray that if President Bush is allowed to skate on this that future Presidents do not follow his lead. Or maybe try you should try to stop it right now rather than once we have truly started down this icy slope. After all, how sincere are you going to sound once you are in full cry about a future Presidents unconstitutional behavior after remaining silent on Bush? America needs you now! Stop this before it is to late.

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