October 17, 2008
Presidential Signing Statements
President Bush this week issued statements in conjunction with his signature on two bills, claiming that aspects of those bills infringe upon the president's Article II powers. The Washington Post reported here.
Section 6 of the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 establishes independent legal counsel for agency inspectors general, while Section 8 directs the manner in which inspectors general submit budget requests. As to Section 6, Bush declared that "within each agency, the determinations of the law remain ultimately the responsibility of the chief legal officer and the head of the agency," thus subjecting independent legal counsel for IGs to legal interpretations of politically appointed attorneys and agency heads. As to Section 8, Bush claimed that the budget process infringes upon the president's authority to decide what to recommend to Congress: "The executive branch shall construe section 8 of the bill in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to recommend for congressional consideration such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient."
Section 851 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 grants new personnel authority to a co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Section 902 provides for the appointment of a Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs. Perhaps most interestingly, Section 1211(2) prohibits the use of appropriated funds "[t]o exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq," and Section 1508(b) requires the administration to negotiate with Iraq on cost-sharing for support of the "combined operations of the Government of Iraq and the Multi-National Forces Iraq undertaken as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Bush wrote that these four provisions
purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to conduct diplomatic negotiations, to supervise the executive branch, to appoint officers of the United States, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief.
And: "The executive branch shall continue to construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority and obligations of the President."
There's plenty here to supplement your lessons on executive authority, appointment power, foreign affairs, and separation-of-powers. And Sections 1211(2) and 1508(b) of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act offer the added bonus of being in the political spotlight.
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