Thursday, March 12, 2009

Signing Statements - Now with Layers!

Ed Brayton cites a NY Times article describing President Obama's feeble departure from his predecessor's use of signing statements:

Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Obama ordered executive officials on Monday to consult with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute.
Oh good! President Obama will ignore a law if both he and his attorney general think it's convenient to do so -- a whole new layer! Brayton rightly declares this a change he can't believe in -- neither Eric Holder nor his office is granted this power in the US Constitution (don't take my word for it, check for yourself) -- and sets forth the constitutional standard:
President Obama, if a piece of legislation has unconstitutional provisions in it, you have one and only one option in the constitution for making sure it is not implemented and that option is the veto. You shouldn't be signing unconstitutional legislation to begin with. You do not have the authority to ignore those provisions that you think are unconstitutional. That is the equivalent of a line item veto and there is no such authority in the constitution. The executive branch's job is, as the very term suggests, to execute the laws as they are passed. You don't get to pick and choose which parts you like and which parts you don't.
Exactly. We don't need and should not have a lawless executive, not even if he's wearing the jersey of the team we like, not even if he can find a lawyer who will tell him it's a good idea. We have a constitution that delineates the powers of the executive, and its terms should be considered binding whether it is convenient or not.

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