Friday, December 22, 2006

Whitehouse.gov = signing statment hades

So I am making my usual rounds about the internets and click on the Whitehouse.gov site. I always link to current news when I go there, and today I noticed something striking. There has been a massive drive on signing statements for law recently signed by the President.

I'm certain I don't need to educate you on the constitutional insidiousness that is the Presidential signing statement, but for a bit of a primer on my thinking, check here, and here.

So there is a raft of new signing statements asserting the right of the President to re-interpret, ignore, reject, dessicate, and/or flambe' all manner of intent in several laws he recently signed. The Whitehouse appears to be especially proud of the signing statement on the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, because it leads the news for Dec. 21, in bold letters across the top of the page.

The absolute disdain with which the administration treats the Congress with these statements is crystal clear. Consider for example this gem from the start of the 2nd paragraph of statement related to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006: "Section 2 of the Act purports to establish"...

Section 2 of the act does NOT purport anything. It absolutely establishes the lawfulness of the issue, given the Presidents signature, and judicial oversight, according to the fundamental precepts of constitutional law. It is the Presidents signing statement that PURPORTS to change the clear intent of the law as written by Congress. The true meaning of purport ("to present, esp. deliberately, the appearance of being; profess or claim, often falsely: a document purporting to be official," from Dictionary.com) in this context is a nearly precise definition of these signing statements. They purport to give the President unconstitutional powers to write laws as he sees fit, and then sign the law he just constructed.

Let us consider another section of the same signing statement. "The executive branch shall construe section 7 of the Act, which relates to establishing or maintaining certain facilities or establishments within the jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority"...

Simply on it's face this stands constitutional muster. Since the President just signed this legislation into law, by conventional definition he will execute that law consistent with constitutional principles. Duh. I had to toss in that little clause about "conventional definition", because the President and his cronies intend to use the verbiage they construct regarding section 7 to proceed in a very unconventional manner in executing the law. The President would have us believe that section 7 no longer holds any weight because he writes his opinion, and then signs the law.

In fact the President purports to defy the constitution, by supposedly using the constitution. He relies upon the clause dealing with the authority of the president to do away with the clause dealing with the creation of law. It is blatant and dangerous, and must be stopped forthwith.

The constitution is clear. Each of the laws signed by the President with a statement changing the clear intent of the law, ought to have been vetoed, unless he considered his difference with congress to be so trifling that he could live with the law as passed originally. Each of those laws as sent to the President was determined by him to be unacceptable for one reason or the other, and by constitutional principle his recourse in these cases is the veto pure and simple, or living with, from his perspective, a flawed law.

If the President actually believes that a law as passed by Congress actually violates the Constitution it is his DUTY as chief executive to veto that law. By issuing a plethora of signing statements he opens the door for all of this legislation to be adjudicated as lawfully binding with his signature, and the signing statements to have no hold over their meaning. If this occurs, his cutseyness with the constitution could backfire in a massive way. Can you imagine this or a future administration being forced to adjudicate each law which President Bush has attached a signing statement to, individually in order to have the constitutionality of the law tested. It would be a nightmare for the federal court system!

I call upon the incoming congress to only issue laws which declare that the law is null and void if the President attaches a statement at signing. And I call upon the congress to challenge the constitutionality of the signing statements used to change the intent of laws passed by congress and issued to this point by President Bush.

Comments:
I call upon the incoming congress to only issue laws which declare that the law is null and void if the President attaches a statement at signing.

This is a good idea, but I'd prefer a solid constitutional test case establishing from a Judicial perspective that the things are illegal.
 
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