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Lawyers v. Bush: Signing Statements
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Dogen



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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Location: Bellingham, WA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 8:49 pm    Post subject: Lawyers v. Bush: Signing Statements Reply with quote

So the American Bar Association task force has concluded signing statements violate the separation of powers, or more specifically, that Mr. Bush violated it by signing 33% more statements than all other presidents combined.

Personally, I've yet to see a plausible explanation for why the President can use signing statements that doesn't hinge entirely on phrases like "protect americans" or "national security" and other fear-inducing catch phrases.

I find it interesting that Mr. Francisco, quoted in the story, puts the blame on Congress for "getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws," essentially passing the buck on violations of the separation of powers.

Quote:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.

The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.

The attachments, known as bill-signing statements, say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.

"This report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy," said the ABA's president, Michael Greco. "If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."

Some congressional leaders had questioned the practice. The task force's recommendations, being released Monday in Washington, will be presented to the 410,000-member group next month at its annual meeting in Hawaii.

ABA policymakers will decide whether to denounce the statements and encourage a legal fight over them.

The task force said the statements suggest the president will decline to enforce some laws. Bush has had more than 800 signing statement challenges, compared with about 600 signing statements combined for all other presidents, the group said.

Noel J. Francisco, a former Bush administration attorney who practices law in Washington, said the president is doing nothing unusual or inappropriate.

"Presidents have always issued signing statements," he said. "This administration believes that it should make clear ... when the Congress is getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws."

Francisco said the administration's input is part of the give and take between the branches of government. "I think it's good that the debate is taking place at a public level," he added.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said last month that "it's important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions."

The ABA report said President Reagan was the first to use the statements as a strategic weapon, and that it was encouraged by then-administration lawyer Samuel Alito -- now the newest Supreme Court justice.

The task force included former prosecutor Neal Sonnett of Miami; former FBI Director William Sessions; Patricia Wald, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards; and former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein; and law school professors and other lawyers.

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Celaeno



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And people think lawyers are the immoral ones...


Anyway, I liked this juxtaposition:

Quote:
Bush has had more than 800 signing statement challenges, compared with about 600 signing statements combined for all other presidents, the group said.

Noel J. Francisco, a former Bush administration attorney who practices law in Washington, said the president is doing nothing unusual or inappropriate.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"This administration believes that it should make clear ... when the Congress is getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws."


which is totally _not_ the president's job - it's the supreme court's. but i guess this is what happens when you elect an mba rather than a lawyer - he's got no concept of the law.

i find it interesting that alito was the first to encourage use of signing statements - wonder what he thinks of them now, when it's his authority as a supreme court justice that is being usurped.

i hope they mount a challenge, and make a huge big fight about it. i'm really surprised congress hasn't raised more of a fuss about it, since (again) it is their power he is usurping. maybe now that his poll numbers are dropping, a few of them will find the balls to stand up at least for _their_ rights....
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Bodhisattva



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mouse wrote:
Quote:
"This administration believes that it should make clear ... when the Congress is getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws."


which is totally _not_ the president's job - it's the supreme court's. but i guess this is what happens when you elect an mba rather than a lawyer - he's got no concept of the law.

i find it interesting that alito was the first to encourage use of signing statements - wonder what he thinks of them now, when it's his authority as a supreme court justice that is being usurped.

i hope they mount a challenge, and make a huge big fight about it. i'm really surprised congress hasn't raised more of a fuss about it, since (again) it is their power he is usurping. maybe now that his poll numbers are dropping, a few of them will find the balls to stand up at least for _their_ rights....

This administration likes to overstep the boundaries of its power.
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cletusowns



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well the problem is that Bush is really using this as a halfassed line item veto which even as a republican bush monger I have a problem with. It should be interesting to see how this pans out. However, I think I read about this in like January of this year or sometime in the winter.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cletusowns wrote:
Well the problem is that Bush is really using this as a halfassed line item veto which even as a republican bush monger I have a problem with. It should be interesting to see how this pans out. However, I think I read about this in like January of this year or sometime in the winter.

You may have heard about the inception of this earlier, but the report was just released today, so unless you're reading the Precog Herald...

mouse wrote:
which is totally _not_ the president's job - it's the supreme court's. but i guess this is what happens when you elect an mba rather than a lawyer - he's got no concept of the law.

i find it interesting that alito was the first to encourage use of signing statements - wonder what he thinks of them now, when it's his authority as a supreme court justice that is being usurped.

Yeah... this is why I have difficulty accepting any explanation of signing statements. The President is then performing the functions of all three branches of government by editing, interpreting and choosing when to execute laws.
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cletusowns



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dogen wrote:
cletusowns wrote:
Well the problem is that Bush is really using this as a halfassed line item veto which even as a republican bush monger I have a problem with. It should be interesting to see how this pans out. However, I think I read about this in like January of this year or sometime in the winter.

You may have heard about the inception of this earlier, but the report was just released today, so unless you're reading the Precog Herald...


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

from april but im sure I saw it earlier. This PARTICULAR report yes was just released but what I meant was the overall issue
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sure. The issue's been in the news for a while. That's not the point. The point was that the Bar Association - the largest and most powerful legal association in the US - has released a report saying signing statements are unconstitutional.

... oh, and now the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania would like to pass a law allowing Congress to sue Bush in federal court over signing statements.

Personally, I'm enjoying all the backbiting that's going on... it serves to bolster support for the opposition party. Plus, of course, I tend to agree that signing statements appear unconstitutional.

Link
MSNBC wrote:
WASHINGTON - A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush’s signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

“We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president’s acts declared unconstitutional,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Specter’s announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

Practice 'harming the separation of powers'

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.

“That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respond to a signing statement,” said ABA president Michael Greco. The practice, he added “is harming the separation of powers.”

Bush has challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers compiled by Specter’s committee. The ABA estimated Bush has issued signing statements on more than 800 statutes, more than all other presidents combined.

Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.

But many of Bush’s signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.

White House defends practice
Still, the White House said signing statements are not intended to allow the administration to ignore the law.

“A great many of those signing statements may have little statements about questions about constitutionality,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow. “It never says, ’We’re not going to enact the law.”’

Specter’s announcement intensifies his challenge of the administration’s use of executive power on a number of policy matters. Of particular interest to him are two signing statements challenging the provisions of the USA Patriot Act renewal, which he wrote, and legislation banning the use of torture on detainees.

Bush is not without congressional allies on the matter. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge, has said that signing statements are nothing more than expressions of presidential opinion that carry no legal weight because federal courts are unlikely to consider them when deciding cases that challenge the same laws.

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Marik



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:13 pm    Post subject: I, President Bush, am happy to sign this law I will ignore Reply with quote

Quote:
I tend to agree that signing statements appear unconstitutional.


Well, they are. Somewhat straightforwardly so, even.

It makes it surreal to watch the White House spokespeople literally balk over the idea that their executive 'power' to ignore or rewrite all laws passed by congress -- at convenience -- may be against the rules.
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Gawzz



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only a little over two years left; what's the worst that can happen?
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Jinx



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apathy?

Acceptance?

Resignation? (By the populace, not W.)
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Sam



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 12:41 pm    Post subject: o yea and cheney is creepy Reply with quote

Well, the precident set in this administration will likely be utilized to some degree by the next few presidencies, Democrat or Republican.

It's not exactly power that I want anyone to have, let alone the folk so genuinely of the belief that they could or should have taken these executive liberties for their own use, over the pragmatic application of a balance of power.

Crisis and circumstance do indeed make the aggrandization and consolidation of power seem, at times, to be appropriate and beneficial. In the short term, they may be. If we look at the historical record, it's practically never been worth it in the long run.

Too much power
has been the enemy of nearly every government in history. The power corrupts, the structure rots.
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Jinx



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So true, Sam.

It relates to my mention of acceptance and resignation (caused by apathy). If the citizens accept these abuses of power, or accept the idea that there is nothing they can do about them, they will become the status quo. We're not only losing our liberties, we're surrendering the liberties of our progeny when we let these violations stand.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Luckily - for us - there is precedent for the executive hoarding power, and it is that the other branches will look the other way while under duress or influence of events but will, by and large, return to their relative senses and begin to wield the cudgel of separation of powers. Such as having the body of Congress sue the President in federal court. Which would really be a sight to see.

Johnnie Cochran says, "If the bill don't fit, you must edit!"

[edit: oops]
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Last edited by Dogen on Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:07 am; edited 2 times in total
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MsFrisby



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PRECEDENT..

Sorry.
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