President Obama’s decision to use signing statements to modify Congressional legislation directly attacks the ‘checks and balances’ to our government set up by the Founders. He is attempting to ‘accumulate more power in the Presidency’, using the claim that he ‘can basically change what Congress passed’ when it comes to legislation; Obama thinks that he has the right to indicate that he can ‘choose to interpret it this way, or that way’, depending on whether he agrees ‘with this part or that part’. In short, he wants to ‘make laws as he’s going along’, and ‘that’s not part of his power’.
Hey, if you don’t believe me, listen to this guy. He’s pretty vehement on the subject:
(H/T: Hot Air)
Just do it fast, before YouTube takes it down for whatever the excuse is this week.
You’ll notice that Obama’s flat rejection of the practice above varies from what was being put in print at various parts of the campaign: the Washington Post reported that Obama would continue to use the practice, only not anything like that awful George W Bush (I believe that a similar distinction was made at the time on FISA, Iraq, and detainee policy). This was not really covered during the campaign, mostly because it wasn’t helpful for Obama to explain why he was contradicting himself on this, but now we’re in the actual Presidency, and it looks like signing statements are fine after all.
I’m not entirely certain that I agree, by the way: I understand the central point of why Presidents use them, but I don’t quite trust ad hoc workarounds that are totally at the discretion of the executive. It’s not so much any individual use that worries, so much as the precedent itself. It’s also pretty hard to track, unlike actual legislation. That being said, this issue does remind us yet again that Jim Geraghty’s quip that “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them.” remains true. Say what you like about former President Bush, but he has the virtue of consistency. We’re not yet a hundred days into this administration, and it’s looking unlikely that the same will ever be said of his successor…
Crossposted to Moe Lane.