March 12, 2009
Obama Issues Signing Statement with Constitutional Objections
President Obama yesterday issued a statement upon signing H.R. 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, claiming that certain portions of the Act unconstitutionally infringe upon his executive authority and stating that his administration will interpret those sections consistent with his constitutional authority. The White House just earlier this week issued a memo to executive officials cautioning them against the use of President Bush's signing statements and outlining principles for the signing statements in the Obama administration.
President Obama's signing statement on H.R. 1105 objects to five different requirements of the Act for restricting his authority to conduct foreign affairs, restricting his authority as commander in chief, restricting his authority to direct the executive branch, and requiring Congressional approval before reallocating funds within the executive branch.
There's nothing particularly controversial in these claims (in comparison, say, to President Bush's statement exempting the administration from U.S. law banning torture). More importantly, they conform to the principles set out by the administration earlier this week on signing statements (link above). Particularly: They state the constitutional objections with specificity (though with no real legal analysis), and they identify the offending portions of the Act with particularity. The claims are modest, and they're transparent.
Although I would hope any more controversial claims would be supported with more detailed, publicly available legal analysis--or even just some publicly available legal analysis--this is a move in the right direction.
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