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GOP Rep. Hits Bush On 'Signing Statements'

A House Republican lawmaker has fired a shot across President Bush's bow over his frequent use of "Presidential Signing Statements" to give his opinion on -- or to even express his intent to ignore -- laws passed by Congress.

Though signing statements have long been used by past presidents, they have become a source of particular controversy during Bush's tenure. Various press reports -- most notably a Pulitzer-winning series by the Boston Globe -- have documented Bush's aggressive use of the documents, prompting critics to deem the practice an unconstitutional end-run around Congress.

Now, GOP Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.) has introduced a bill requiring such statements to be disclosed more quickly and more publicly, and "require executive staff to testify on the meaning and justification for presidential signing statements at the request of the House or Senate Judiciary Committee."

Jones' bill obviously wouldn't ban the practice of issuing such statements, but it might provide House Democrats with nice fodder for more public excoriation of the Bush administration's alleged hubris and secrecy. It helps Democrats' case that Jones is a Republican, though the North Carolinian has made a habit of late of bucking his party, most prominently on the Iraq war.

One more note on Jones: Given that he hails from a heavily Republican district with strong military ties, some in the GOP thought he might be vulnerable in last Tuesday's party primary against Joe McLaughlin, a former Army officer. McLaughlin made Jones' opposition to the Iraq war the central focus of his challenge to the incumbent. But Jones beat McLaughlin by 20 points, so he won't be going anywhere for awhile.

He may even be around to see an end to the use of signing statements, since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said he won't issue them if elected president. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have both criticized Bush for his handling of the statements, but they haven't gone as far as McCain in vowing to stop writing them altogether.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 12, 2008; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Branch vs. Branch  
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Typical Republican. Let's get rid of (fill in the abused practice) after we've used it for 8 years in case our political enemies want to use it against us.

How about the Special Prosecutor law. Set up to guard against Republican unconstitutional shenanigans, used to hound and impeach Clinton for trivial "moral" issues and then discarded when it was really needed to fight the takeover by the Bushies.

How about signing statements. Abused by the Bushies to unconstitutionally ignore congressional legislation, now they want to take it off the table before the Democrats can use them.

I'm so sick of these guys. And I'm not alone.

Posted by: thebob.bob | May 12, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"He may even be around to see an end to the use of signing statements, since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said he won't issue them if elected president."

But anyone paying the slightest but of attention knows McCain likes to make grandiose sweeping statements that burnish his false maverick image, but then does not follow through when push comes to shove. Two examples that spring to mind: 1) eliminating "all earmarks," until he is informed that aid to Israel and funding for military housing are earmarks under the definition that his campaign said it would use, and 2) sponsoring and being instrumental in passing the campaign finance legislation that bears his name, but violating the same legislation when he realizes can raise more money if he forgoes public financing.

McCain is a fraud that will be exposed once the Democratic primary stops hogging all of the headlines.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 12, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

It is as simple as this.

Where in the Constitution does it say that the Executive Branch gets to issue a statement of selective approval or disapproval of a bill that the President is signing that has been passed by the Legislative branch?

Answer: It does not exist. Period.

Posted by: JoeC | May 13, 2008 3:56 AM | Report abuse

When mccain says he won't use signing statements he is lying. I just hope every one realizes that.

Posted by: Terrible | May 13, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

McCain wont HAVE TO issue any signing statements because BUSH-n-CHENEY HAVE covered all the bases. We are no longer a free people as was originally intended by our founding fathers. We are ever faster closing in on a Fascist society with a President whom more resembles a dictator...Complete with an ever increasing Police State funded by the Department of "Homeland-?-Security" When its way to late , then my fellow americans will SEE

Posted by: Madgino | May 13, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Until the Judiciary rules via the Supreme Court that the Executive branch is out of line, and they have not, the Legislative branch needs to quit crying like babies because they don't get their way.

Posted by: gemman69 | May 13, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

This dictatorial take-over began long ago!

Google: Coup 2K

We need a law which declares all "Signing Statements" unconstitutional [they have no legal basis].

We must have our Constitution, Bill of Rights, Geneva Convention Agreement(s) ALL fully restored according to the TRUE purpose and intent of them as written.

Posted by: wiseoldwoman | May 13, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

the bob got it right.

Republicans in Congress are modern day Pharisees -- they want to be seen as good while doing evil, and their motivation is their love of money.

Posted by: Chuck | May 13, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The danger in this bill is it legitimizes signing statements that have been used to make a mockery of the rule of law.

Posted by: Paul | May 13, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Hello my friends :)

Posted by: AlkahPali | May 13, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

1. JoeC has it absolutely correct - there IS no constititutional basis for "signing statements," no matter how long nor by how many presidents they've been used.
2. Without indulging in ad hominem attacks (regardless of their accuracy), let us be clear that McCain may say he won't use them, but, when he doesn't get his way with Congress, does that mean he really won't ? (He is an idealogue, after all.)
3. It is essential that we have a president who will not appoint "strict constructionsts" (what a lie that term is !) to the Supreme Court - according to my understanding of the Constitution, what is not specifically prohibited is not prohibited. Doesn't this mean that, excluding doing harm to others (physical and / or economic), we are supposed to be free for "the pursuit of happiness" (I know, Declaration, not Constitution, but these were the same "Founding Fathers") in our own personal lives ? Without government in our daily activities ?
4. Contrary to "wiseoldwoman"'s idea, a law banning "Signing Statements" will have no effect so long as we are saddled by a Court that promotes Executive power over the checks and balances understood in the Constitution. And, as "Paul" notes, any such law would, by implication, legitimize the previous excercise of any such unconstitutional practices (not merely "Signing Statements")

Posted by: silent too long | May 14, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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