Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Veto Threats and Presidential Signing Statements

The Bush administration issued yet another veto threat to the House over legislation to authorize Homeland Security Department programs if it gives the agency's 170,000 employees greater collective bargaining rights (which was a major sticking point over the original bill to create the department and was then used against Senator Max Cleland in 2002).

This adds to a mounting list of veto threats, including ones over a new Iraq spending bill, allowing the government to negotiate down prescription drug prices, hate crimes protection for homosexuals, voting rights for D.C. citizens, 9/11 security recommendations and the Employment Free Choice Act over similar collective bargaining provisions. All these threats are issues despite the fact that Republicans lost Congress, Bush's approval rating has dropped to a new low, and clear majority support for these Democratic priorities.

Of course, one concern from critics is that Bush would simply use a presidential signing statement to abrogate certain portions of laws he did sign, something he has done over 750 times in his tenure. This a clear abuse of constitutional power (the President executes laws, he doesn't interpret or amend them) which has concerned both Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress, but little has been done.

However, The Hill is reporting that Speaker Pelosi threatening to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing statement as a way of sidestepping an Iraq war spending bill.

The president has made excessive use of signing statements and Congress is considering ways to respond to this executive-branch overreaching,” a spokesman for Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami, said. “Whether through the oversight or appropriations process or by enacting new legislation, the Democratic Congress will challenge the president’s non-enforcement of the laws.”

This isn't outside the realm of possibilty. When he vetoed the last Iraq war spening bill, Bush issued a statement declaring the legislation unconstitutional because it "purports to direct the conduct of operations of the war in a way that infringes upon the powers vested in the presidency.” Bush may sign any new bill and simply ignore provisions he doesn't like by claiming them "unconstitutional."

The Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue of presidential signing statements, but it did rule the line-item veto unconstitutional because it gave the President the power to amend laws without approval from Congress. However, the federal courts do not like to hear cases that involve political fights between Congress and the President.

If this fight did happen, it would be very interesting to see what unfolds...

No comments: