Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senator: Specter not pleased
with Bush's actions
June 28, 2006
June 27 — Senators on the Judiciary Committee
accused President Bush of an "unprecedented"
and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday
for making use of a device that gave him the authority
to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since
he became president.
using what are known as signing statements, memorandums
issued with legislation as he signs it, the president
has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he
thinks violate the Constitution or national security,
or that impair foreign relations.
lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was
only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But
Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania
and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized
the president's actions as a declaration that he "will
do as he pleases," without regard to the laws
passed by Congress.
a real issue here as to whether the president may,
in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and
exclude the ones he doesn't like," Mr. Specter
said at a hearing.
it be better, as a matter of comity," he said,
"for the president to have come to the Congress
and said, 'I'd like to have this in the bill; I'd
like to have these exceptions in the bill,' so that
we could have considered that?"
Specter and others are particularly upset that Mr.
Bush reserved the right to interpret the torture ban
passed overwhelmingly by Congress, as well as Congressional
oversight powers in the renewal of the Patriot Act.
Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said
the statements were "not an abuse of power."
Ms. Boardman said, the president has the responsibility
to make sure the Constitution is upheld. He uses signing
statements, she argued, to "save" statutes
from being found unconstitutional. And he reserves
the right, she said, only to raise questions about
a law "that could in some unknown future application"
be declared unconstitutional.
is often not at all the situation that the president
doesn't intend to enact the bill," Ms. Boardman
fight over signing statements is part of a continuing
battle between Congress and the White House. Mr. Specter
and many Democrats have raised objections to the administration's
wiretapping of phones without warrants from the court
set up to oversee surveillance.
month, Mr. Specter accused Vice President Dick Cheney
of going behind his back to avoid the Judiciary Committee's
oversight of surveillance programs.
will it end?" asked Senator Edward M. Kennedy,
Democrat of Massachusetts. "Where does it stop?"
bills Mr. Bush has reserved the right to revise or
ignore include provisions that govern affirmative
action programs, protect corporate whistle-blowers,
require executive agencies to collect certain statistics,
and establish qualifications for executive appointees.
and two law professors before the panel said that
if the president objected to a bill, he should use
his power to veto it — something he has not
done in his six years in office.
Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said the
expansion of executive power would be the "lasting
legacy" of the Bush administration. "This
new use of signing statements is a means to undermine
and weaken the law," she said.
the president is saying, she added, is "Congress,
what you do isn't really important; I'm going to do
what I want to do."
Boardman said the president had inserted 110 statements,
which senators said applied to 750 statutes, compared
with 30 by President Jimmy Carter. The number has
increased, she said, but only marginally, and only
because national security concerns have increased
since the attacks of Sept. 11 and more laws have been
passed. She acknowledged that the increase might be
construed as "a lack of good communication"
Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said the
committee was making too much of the statements. "It
is precedented," he said, "and it's not
said they had been expecting a higher-ranking official
from the office of legal policy, and Senator Patrick
J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the committee,
chastised the White House for not sending "anybody
who would have authority to speak on this."
then, considering the fact that they're using basically
an extra-constitutional, extra-judicial step to enhance
the power of the president, it's not unusual,"
Copyright 2006 New York Times Co.