Senate Panel Examines President’s Use of "Signing Statements"; ACLU Welcomes Probe into Administration’s Abuse of Power

June 27, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s examination of President Bush’s use of presidential “signing statements,” noting that such statements are a tool the president uses to subvert his duty to uphold U.S. law. Since taking office, President Bush has issued such signing statements affecting more than 750 laws, often claiming a supposed right to not enforce laws passed by Congress that he thinks limit his asserted unlimited powers.

“President Bush needs a lesson in Civics 101,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The executive is supposed to enforce the laws Congress passes, and respect the separation of powers that define our country. But in this president’s mind, he is above the law. His lack of respect for the rule of law and his abuse of power are evident, and we hope that today’s hearing will highlight this administration’s disregard for the law.”

President Bush’s signing statements have in most cases said that he will refuse to enforce part of a law because it conflicts with his extraordinary claims of presidential powers. The statements have covered numerous issues, including a congressional ban on the use of torture, affirmative action rules, protection for the integrity of scientific research and whistleblower protections. Such steps, the ACLU noted, defy the constitutional powers of Congress, and undermine the system of checks and balances.

Article II of the Constitution states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

The ACLU observed that President Bush has yet to veto a single bill passed by Congress.

“He doesn’t have to use a veto,” said Fredrickson. “If Congress passes a law the president dislikes, he simply states that he has no intention of executing the law as written. The Constitution and our laws don’t provide for the president to choose which provisions of laws passed by Congress he will enforce.”

Additionally, the president’s authorization of warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency violates the unequivocal restrictions on domestic spying outlined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The ACLU said that the NSA spying reflects the administration’s determination to ignore the rule of law and the Constitution.

“As with so many other powers, President Bush has perverted the use of signing statements,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “President Bush continues to thumb his nose at Congress and the Constitution. This is simply another example of his hostility to the rule of law and to a federal government of limited powers.”

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