Obama Embraces Signing Statements After Knocking Bush for Using Them
Candidate Barack Obama criticized President Bush for using ‘signing statements’ to ignore the will of Congress. But Obama’s done the same thing 20 times since taking office, and his latest effort is rankling lawmakers
As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama promised that if he was elected president he would not issue obscure declarations known as signing statements that thwart the intent of laws passed by Congress. But as the president now seeking reelection in 2012, on at least 20 occasions Obama has embraced the same tactic he criticized George W. Bush for using, raising allegations of double-dealing in Congress and questions of constitutionality from the American Bar Association.
The signing statement essentially declares Obama’s intention to ignore requirements in the law, including restrictions on data transfers to Russia, new authorities to detain suspected members of al Qaeda, and sanctions against the central bank of Iran. The move has alienated members of Congress who claim the White House reneged on promises it made during backroom negotiations to get the long-stalled legislation passed just before lawmakers left for the holidays.
In the Dec. 31 signing statement, Obama says the section of the defense authorization bill that requires the president to notify Congress 60 days prior to any decision to share the missile defense data “could interfere with my constitutional foreign affairs powers.” Obama also says the section of the bill instructing the United States to sanction any banks that do business with Iran’s central bank, a provision championed by Kirk, also would interfere with the president’s ability to make foreign policy.
The assertion by Obama does follow a long-standing tradition for Democratic and Republican presidents. President Monroe was the first to issue a signing statement, and the practice later became more widespread during the Reagan administration. Although Obama has issued 20 signing statements, President George W. Bush had issued 87 such statements by the fourth year of his first term.
“Presidents have long used signing statements to signal concerns about legislation, and in particular, with respect to provisions he believes inappropriately encroach on his duties as commander in chief,” said Mark Paoletta, a former assistant counsel to President George H.W. Bush.
“However, during the 2008 campaign, Obama trashed President Bush 43 for using signing statements but now seems to be using them vigorously to object to many provisions of laws,” he added.
At a campaign stop in Grand Junction, Colo., in May 2008, Obama responded to a question from the audience by promising not use the signing statements. (video below)
Drawing a contrast with President George W. Bush, whom Obama characterized as changing “what Congress passed by attaching a letter saying ‘I don’t agree with this part’ or ‘I don’t agree with that part,’” Obama asserted, “Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it.”
He later tempered his pledge after entering office, issuing a memorandum in March 2009 saying he would issue the signing statements “to address constitutional concerns only when it is appropriate to do so as a means of discharging my constitutional responsibilities.”
For the American Bar Association, the main lawyers’ lobby, Obama’s use of the tactic is as problematic as that of the presidents before him.
“The Constitution gives the president the power of veto, and if the president is not going to abide by a part of any given legislation provided by Congress, then he needs to veto that legislation and let the Congress decide whether to override that veto,” said Bill Robinson III, the president of the American Bar Association.
As a Conservative, I am not a fan of Executive Orders or Signing Statements, no matter who is issuing them. The trend in the last 2 administrations is clear that they are used mainly to circumvent congress and vest more power in the President and the Executive Branch. It wasn’t cool when Bush did it – he set a terrible precedent that Obama has been more than eager to follow.
I believe that Bush’s overuse of the Executive Pen played a major role in Obama’s election in 2008. Many Republicans and Conservatives became so disillusioned with Bush that they crossed party lines and pulled the lever for Obama.
At this point, Obama would be wise to understand that 2 wrongs do not make a right. After spending the better part of the last 3 years blaming Bush for his own failure to turn the economy around, does President Obama really think he can excuse his own hypocrisy just because “Bush did it, too”?? Mr. Hope and Change was elected in 2008 because Americans wanted someone who was different than Bush. Now with his first term nearing an end, it is clear that Obama was not really the “Change” he had advertised – in many ways he is just like Bush…ONLY WORSE.
Obama decided yesterday that he was going to make a series of “recess” appointments, despite the fact that the Senate has been holding Pro Forma sessions and IS STILL IN SESSION. Still worse is that one of the positions filled with this unconstitutional recess appointment will be heading up the extremely powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – an agency born of the controversial Dodd-Frank FinReg Legislation. Senate Republicans put a hold on the nominee because they disagree that one person who is a political appointee should wield that much power over our financial system while at the same time answering only to the Treasury Department, The Federal Reserve, and to some extent, the President. The CFPB is not subject to congressional oversight…that’s right… ZERO accountability to congress.
It is clear that the Senate GOP were not “obstructing” the confirmation to be mean or partisan – there are genuine concerns with the power and structure of this new Bureaucracy that has the potential to effect the lives of each and every American.
Then there is THIS from Jim Pethokoukis at AEI that suggests that the recess appointment is not an end in itself -
Obama may very well be laying the groundwork for a MASSIVE (as in multiple TRILLION dollars) home mortgage refi program to be administered by the bankrupt-but-too-big-to-fail entities - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Hey – wasn’t it Fannie and Freddie’s government backed guarantees of subprime loans (that went bad) that jump started the “Worst recession since the great depression”???
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!?!?