Skip to content

President Obama Abuses Signing Statement Power, Congress Rightly Angered

July 15, 2009

There is distressing news reported today about President Obama, and his signing statements.  I have railed against this practice by President Bush, and plan to raise the same alarm under our Democratic leader.

In Novemer 2008 I wrote the following.

Over the past eight years there has been a massive effort to expand the powers of the executive.  That does not bode well for the nation.   I would make that same statement about the issue had Barack Obama been in charge for the last two terms.  (And I am sure to raise this issue again as the months go by under an Obama Administration.)  This issue is not one of Democratic or Republican partisanship, but instead should be viewed as an American issue.  The results of a stronger executive branch undercuts the legislative, and ill-serves the very people they all claim to work on behalf of.

Today comes this news that is just not acceptable.   I expect more from President Obama.   I want Congress to find its source of power, and reapply it when it comes to Executive over-reach as President Obama has attempted.

With $108 billion in International Monetary Fund loan guarantees in jeopardy last month, White House economic officials begged, cajoled and cut deals with Democrats to secure passage of legislation boosting the fund’s power. Days later, President Barack Obama announced he wasn’t bound by any of the agreements. 

The ensuing flap over the president’s June 24 signing statement is the latest in a series of clashes between the White House and Congress over an issue Mr. Obama once fought against himself: presidential fiat.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama pledged that he wouldn’t abuse the presidential signing statement, a declaration issued by the president when he signs a bill to give his interpretation of that law. President George W. Bush used so many signing statements — more than 750 — that the American Bar Association criticized it as an abuse of power.

After Mr. Obama’s issuance of his second signing statement last month, even some Democrats say he isn’t keeping his word on reining in unilateral presidential actions.

“Of course there’s a broader issue here,” said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.), referring to the brewing battles with Mr. Obama over presidential prerogative. “It’s outrageous. It’s exactly what the Bush people did.”

A White House official said the signing statement was issued “out of an abundance of caution” to preserve “core presidential prerogatives” in the area of foreign policy. “The administration negotiated in good faith on this bill and has every intention of living up to our commitments undertaken in the legislation,” said White House deputy press secretary Jen Psaki.

The House last week reinstated the restrictions on the IMF that were undone by the president’s June signing statement, by a vote of 429-2, in a foreign-operations appropriations bill.

In a letter slated for delivery on Wednesday, Mr. Frank, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D., Wis.), and New York Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey and Gregory Meeks will inform the president that if he issues another signing statement on IMF and World Bank funding, Congress will cut off the funds he wants.

3 Comments
  1. franklyspeaking permalink
    July 16, 2009 11:01 AM

    Read your post about signing statements. Two thoughts:

    Once again, where is the Change That We Can Believe In?

    And, Cheney’s mission to restore and expand the imperial presidency lives on.

    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/11/26/hail_to_the_chief/

  2. July 16, 2009 9:38 AM

    Good for Obey. Congress must wield its power of the purse in cases like this.

  3. ReasonableCitizen permalink
    July 15, 2009 10:32 PM

    I agree.
    I recognize that Congress passes bad bills but that does not give POTUS the authority to choose which passages to uphold. He can veto that bill and tell Congress why and let them fix it.
    Save America, Shout “Now!”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: