Obama on the Dangers of Presidential Signing Statements: Trust Me!


In December 2007, the Boston Globe quizzed all of the major party presidential candidates about issues of executive authority. One question dealt with presidential signing statements, which George W. Bush had used to nullify portions of numerous federal laws—laws that he had just signed—that he believed undermined his executive powers. Not that it mattered to voters, but John McCain gave one of the best answers: "As President, I won't have signing statements. I will either sign or veto any legislation that comes across my desk." Barack Obama proved more evasive. While he declared that it was "a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like," he also claimed, "No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives." No one?  Besides, Bush's whole point was to protect the "president's constitutional powers," at least as he defined them.

So what's to stop President Obama from doing much the same? We shall see. According to ABC News, Obama will definitely be using signing statements:

"I will issue signing statements to address constitutional concerns only when it is appropriate to do so as a means of discharging my constitutional responsibilities," he wrote, without providing specific details on what would fall under that definition….

""[S]uch signing statements serve a legitimate function in our system, at least when based on well-founded constitutional objections. In appropriately limited circumstances, they represent an exercise of the President's constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and they promote a healthy dialogue between the executive branch and the Congress," Obama wrote.

More here. My case against presidential signing statements here.