Global, Justice, Politics

Arlen Specter vs. Emperor Bush

I just heard this on NPR and nearly lost it. Of late, George W. Bush has taken up a lovely little hobby of issuing colorful bill-signing statements to laws passed by Congress that limit his own power. Basically, he writes disclaimers after any law he disagrees, disclaimers which revise and reinterpret laws already passed by the legislature, i.e. the people we elect to pass our laws. Supposedly this is done in the name of “national security in pursuing the war on terror.” So what laws are being “reinterpreted” in the name of Peace on Earth? A little bill called the McCain Amendment on renunciation of torture, for example. And many, many others–statements on 750 bills and counting. According to the Boston Globe, “Bush has used signing statements to reserve the right to disobey more than 750 laws, saying that they conflict with the powers he believes the Constitution gives to him.”
Thankfully, though, Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is really, really pissed about this. In fact, he’s so pissed that he’s pursuing plans to for Congress to sue the President. A hearing is scheduled for this coming Tuesday.
For more, see Seattle Times story.
So apparently he really is a dictator. Who knew? I feel way too jaded to be excited about this, though. It seems that time and time again, this administration somehow slips out of everything. If there was true justice and accountability, there would have been an impeachment a looooong time ago. ITMFA!!!

7 thoughts on “Arlen Specter vs. Emperor Bush

  1. Too damn bad most of the Republican party has cut and run so fast on the American constitution. 9/11 wasn’t a good enough excuse for most of us to abandon the vision embodied in that document, but any excuse is a good excuse for those who are uncomfortable with it in the first place, I guess. Or, maybe they’re just cowards.

  2. It’s always a pleasure to read the pearls of wisdom of the constitutional scholars of Jewschool. Is it anyone’s position that Congress can pass any law it wishes affecting or limiting executive power? Of course not. That would be unconstitutional, and common sense tells you that if that were the case, there wouldn’t be an executive power at all. These issues can only be properly discussed on a case by case basis, with knowledge of what the Constitution actually says, along with any relevant case history. In some cases I might agree that the Administration overstepped its bounds, in others not. (And let’s note that the executive hardly has a monopoly on overstepping.)

  3. For the best in depth reporting on this, check out Elizabeth Drew’s piece in the latest NY Review of Books.

  4. I don’t like Bush anymore than you do, but signing statements are nothing new. Every President issues them when they don’t agree with every single word of a bill that they’re about to sign into law–which is pretty much all of them. They’re really not a big deal, because they’re not binding by the Constitution.
    The Constitution gives Congress exclusive legislative power, so it’s THEIR intent that counts when a law is interpreted by the Supreme Court. That’s the reason why the Court overturned the Line Item Veto Act which gave the Clinton to power to cross out parts of a bill he didn’t like. Even Congress can’t delegate it’s own legislative authority to the executive.
    The only way that the Court could use Bush’s signing statements would be if they did not conflict with legislative intent, in which case, there would be no problem (at least not with separation of powers, Congress does pass some stupid laws though).
    The good thing about signing statements is that they give us a bit of a clue of which parts the President is going to try not to enforce. He can’t explicitly (at least not in public) tell the Executive not to enforce a law, but he can tell them how to interpret and what to let slide. It’s not good that he does this, but at least the signing statements give us fair warning.
    So don’t worry kids, Bush’s signing statements don’t mean much of anything. Even Scalia wouldn’t use them over legisative history when interpreting a statute. He’d sure as hell try though.
    If you get worried, check THIS out. It’s a pretty good read and as a citizen, it’s kind of your responsibility…

  5. I think it’s more of a big deal than in previous administrations, Shylock, for a couple of reasons. One, previous presidents issued from 100-150 signing statements on average during their administrations. Bush has done 750–this is enormous and speaks volumes upon volumes towards his mentality and how he views his position. Two, this is an administration that has already shown a great disdain towards the Constitution and rule of law, and this is yet another example of Bush considering himself considerably above it all, now at the most basic level of apparently seeing Congressional legislation less as rules and more as “guidelines.”
    Arlen Spector is right to sue, if only to get more people pissed off about something that has been going on for a long time. I’ll say it again: ITMFA people, ITMFA!

  6. I love president Bush. He was the first to realize that Arafat was an evil ruler who wanted only the destruction of Israel and refused to deal with him; he was quick to mobilize the country after 9/11 and destroy the Afghanian regime that had harbored the Talaban murderers; and he realized that strategically unless arab muslims were presented a working democratic model the arab muslim middle east would forever harbor the ctrazies who will attempt to destroy the west for the next millenium. Will Irag succeed? It will take at least 10 to 20 years to find out – but if Bush fails, the middle east has lost its one great hope to end its vile downward spiral. And as to our civil liberties, there has been less intrusion than during WWi or WWII, and anyone who doesn’t realize we are in a war against Muslim expansionism has blnded themselves to reality (and read too much of the NYTimes).

  7. J asks, “Is it anyone’s position that Congress can pass any law it wishes affecting or limiting executive power?”
    If the President thinks a bill unconstitutionally infringes on his authority than he has a right–perhaps one could say duty–to veto it.
    Bush has chosen to sign such bills, and then sign side notes in which he says this or that provision does not apply and he will ignore it.
    He can’t have it both ways and both sign and ignore a law or any of its provisions. The US Constitution gives the President one power over lawmaking–a veto, and he must take or leave the bill as a whole.
    Bush has taken signing statements to a new level, both in frequency and scope of claims made, and this is a process of what I call the Latin Americanization of the US Constitution. Many Latin American constitutions explictly let presidents do this sort of thing. At least then it’s regulated by law and the courts. When the president takes it upon himself to decide he has this authority, we are outside the rule of law.

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