Curb Signing Statements

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

President Bush infuriated Democrats by using signing statements to distance himself from laws passed by Congress containing provisions he disliked or thought violated the Constitution.

As a candidate, Barack Obama denounced that practice, arguing that Bush had overstepped his bounds as president. Three months after taking office, President Obama issued an order invalidating Bush's signing statements and outlining the laudably narrow circumstances that would trigger statements of his own.

Now, Obama has irked his fellow Democrats by declaring that he, like his predecessor, has the right to ignore legislation that he thinks oversteps the Constitution.

It's a disturbing assertion, one that four senior House Democrats were justified in criticizing in a letter to Obama. Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Nita Lowery and Gregory Meeks of New York said they were "surprised" and "chagrined" by Obama's statement in June accompanying a war spending bill.

In that statement, Obama said he intended to ignore restrictions placed on aid provided to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The president said the restrictions interfered with his authority as president to conduct foreign policy and negotiate with other governments.

It wasn't Obama's first signing statement. Earlier, he issued similar statements regarding provisions in legislation relating to spending, commissions to govern public lands in New York, an investigation of the financial crisis and - take a deep breath, Republicans - Ronald Reagan's birthday. …