Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In with the new, out with the signing statements

By Michael J.W. Stickings

NYT: "Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Obama ordered executive officials on Monday to consult with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute."

That's the good news.

The bad news? "Obama also signaled that he intended to use signing statements himself if Congress sent him legislation with provisions he decided were unconstitutional."

So will it be more of the same? Not necessarily, though we are being asked to trust that Obama knows what he's doing and will act appropriately: "In exercising my responsibility to determine whether a provision of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional, I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are well-founded."

Define "caution," "restraint," and "well-founded." Define "unconstitutional."

At Hullabaloo, dday writes that "Obama would give the Congress the benefit of the doubt and act with restraint in issuing signing statements, generally within the accepted practice of the previous 200-odd years." Similarly, at Political Animal, Steve Benen writes that "Obama is returning to constitutional and institutional norms that existed before 2001."

Well, okay. Fine. But we should all be watching closely to make sure that Obama adheres to the high standards he is setting for himself.

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