Thursday, March 12, 2009

The New Look In Presidential Signing Statements

President Obama has issued a memo limiting the use of presidential signing statements by the government. See the NYTimes for a complete story. The memo itself makes good reading. In regard to existing Bush signing statements, it says -
... executive branch departments and agencies are directed to seek the advice of the Attorney General before relying on signing statements issued prior to the date of this memorandum as the basis for disregarding, or otherwise refusing to comply with, any provision of a statute.
Thus, every signing statement issued by Bush that calls for an agency to ignore or disregard the provisions of any law is now subject to scrutiny.

Consider the report issued in 2007 by the GAO about the practical effect of the Bush signing statements. The broad strokes of this detailed report (in the form of a 43 page letter to Senator Byrd and Representative Conyers) is that on occasion, agencies have declined to enforce laws in compliance with the terms of Bush's signing statements.

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