Presidential Signing Statements

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Our Presidential Power show never materialized, despite a lot of exhortations from our loyal readership, but the issue has never gone away. Far from it. The latest outcry about a possible chink in the checks and balances system focuses on the practice of presidential “signing statements,” official addenda in which the president explains his interpretation of the bill he’s signing into law — or just outlines the parts of the law he’s chosen not to follow.

Bush isn’t the first president to tack on these legally confusing Post-It Notes, but he’s certainly been the most prolific, quietly signing more than 750 since he took office, as the Boston Globe‘s Charlie Savage reported on Sunday. That’s more than three times as many as his father, and more than five times as many as Clinton — and in opposition to a much wider range of statutes.

So, in response to Jon, we’re reviving a presidential power show, and asking: is this a wild Executive tilt in the balance of power or a constitutionally proper signal of Executive intent?

Charlie Savage

Reporter, Washington bureau, Boston Globe

Author, “Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws,” Boston Globe, 30 April 2006

Author, “Examples of the President’s Signing Statements,” Boston Globe, 30 April 2006

Author, “Hearing Vowed on Bush’s Powers,” Boston Globe, 3 May 2006

Bruce Fein

Principal, The Lichfield Group

Associate Deputy Attorney General during the Reagan Administration

Laurence Tribe

Professor of constitutional law, Harvard Law School

Noel Francisco

Laywer, Jones Day

Associate Counsel to the President, 2001-2003

Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, 2003-2005

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