A “threat to the Constitution and to the rule of law.”

The American Bar Association found its voice yesterday on Bush’s use of presidential signing statements, declaring their widespread use “a ‘threat to the Constitution and to the rule of law.'” Money quote from the NYT:

In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.

* * *

The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”

I’m happy to see the ABA standing up for our constitutional system. Arguments over presidential signing statements may seem like arcane mumbo-jumbo to some non-lawyers, but to any citizen (lawyer or not) who understands our system of government and where it came from, such statements are rightly considered a serious long-term threat to our republic.

For a little historical context, the Times notes:

The issue has deep historical roots, the panel said, noting that Parliament had condemned King James II for nonenforcement of certain laws in the 17th century. The panel quoted the English Bill of Rights: “The pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal.”

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