Monday, July 24, 2006

Executive Powers (Part 5) ABA Panel Speaks Out and Sen. Specter prepares to Sue

The Boston Globe continues to pioneer the lead on this issue. I have yet to even seen this mention in any of the other major media outlets.
My only question is this just a "dog and pony show?" Will the rest of the Senate take a stand and try to bring down this Idiot (aka President Bush) to Earth? Or will they just continue to run along side him and let him expand his power? How many bills can this Idiot sign into laws but then write a paragraph that exempts him and his administration from following that law? People follow this evil man blindly and unquestioning even if they acknowledge that he has stepped beyond the powers of the office, they fail to abide by their Constitutional oath. Finally even they are waking up and standing up to him, but is a law suit a fitting challenge? Shouldn't it be impeachment? In my opinion Yes, but his Republican mates would never go against the party in such a way even if it is called for. I guess we will have to wait and see who follow and who has the balls to stand up for the Constitution.

Panel chides Bush on bypassing laws
ABA group cites limits to power

By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | July 24, 2006

WASHINGTON -- President Bush should stop issuing statements claiming the power to bypass parts of laws he has signed, an American Bar Association task force has unanimously concluded in a strongly worded 32-page report that is scheduled to be released today.

The bipartisan panel of legal specialists includes a former FBI director, a former federal appeals court chief judge, former Republican officials, and leading scholars.

The panel said presidents do not have the authority to declare that sections of the bills they sign are unconstitutional, and that they thus need not be enforced as Congress wrote them.

Bush has used these so-called signing statements to challenge more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office, more than all previous presidents combined.

``The president's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has assigned into being, unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court," the report said. ``The Constitution is not what the President says it is."

The task force will present its findings next month in Hawaii at a meeting of the bar group's 550-member House of Delegates. The delegates will vote on whether to adopt the recommendations.

The task force chairman and a former federal prosecutor, Neal Sonnett , said he hoped the House of Delegates would back the panel's call to roll back the use of presidential signing statements.

``The recommendations that we make are an effort to correct practices that, if they continue, threaten to throw this country into a constitutional crisis," Sonnet said. ``Most of the members of the House of Delegates are very concerned about upholding the rule of law.That is, after all, the mission of the ABA. So I'm hopeful that we willget a resounding show of support."

The ABA's board of governors created the task force in June, at therequest of the bar group's president, Michael Greco, a Boston lawyer.The move followed the publication of a series of articles in The BostonGlobe about Bush's expanded use of signing statements.

Citing an expansive theory of executive power that is not supportedby most legal scholars, the administration has declared that theConstitution puts Bush beyond the reach of Congress in military mattersand executive branch operations.

The laws Bush has challenged include a ban on torturing detainees,oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, restrictions against usingUS troops in combat against rebels in Colombia, and numerousrequirements to provide information to Congress, among many others. Atthe same time, Bush has vetoed just one bill since he took office.

In its report, the task force acknowledged that its work had beenprompted by ``the number and nature of the current president's signingstatements," but it emphasized that its criticism was ``not intended tobe, and should not be viewed as, an attack on President George W. Bush."

The panel noted that especially since the 1980s, previous presidentsof both parties had also used signing statements to challenge laws,albeit less frequently.

President Clinton, for example, used signing statements to challenge140 laws over his eight years in office. The task force characterizedall such statements as inappropriate.

``Our recommendations . . . are directed not just at the sittingpresident, but at all chief executives who will follow him, and theyare intended to underscore the importance of the doctrine of separationof powers," the panel wrote.

Last month at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, anadministration lawyer, Michelle Boardman, defended the use ofpresidential signing statements. Boardman argued that the president wasshowing respect to Congress by using signing statements, because a vetowould take out the entire bill.

But the task force said a president does not have that option. TheConstitution requires the president either to veto a bill in itsentirety -- giving Congress a chance to override his decision -- or tosign the bill and enforce all its components as Congress wrote them,they said.

``A line-item veto is not a constitutionally permissiblealternative, even when the president believes that some provisions of abill are unconstitutional. . . . A president could easily contrive aconstitutional excuse to decline enforcement of any law he deplored,and transform his qualified veto into a monarch-like absolute veto,"the panel wrote.

At the hearing last month, Boardman also argued that presidents mustuse signing statements, because it is often impractical to veto anentire bill over small constitutional problems if the bill containsother measures that the executive branch deems are urgently needed.

The ABA task force, however, said that the Constitution's limits on presidential power trump such pragmatic considerations.

``The Founding Fathers contemplated bills with both attractive andunattractive features packaged in one bill with heterogeneousprovisions," the panel wrote. ``The president nonetheless was expectedto veto `urgent' bills that he believed were unconstitutional in part.

``If the urgency were genuine, Congress could either delete theoffending provisions or override the president," the panel wrote in itsreport.

If Congress and the White House cannot reach an agreement on thesigning statements, the task force added, both sides should take stepsto put the issue before a court for review.

The report urged Congress to pass legislation giving it standing to sue a president over such signing statements.

The idea of legislation allowing Congress to sue the White Houseover signing statements has also been floated by the Senate JudiciaryCommittee chairman, Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who hasaccused Bush of ``a very blatant encroachment" on the constitutionalprerogative of Congress to write laws.

The ABA task force's members included several conservativeRepublican figures, including Mickey Edwards, a former member ofCongress from Oklahoma; Bruce Fein, a Justice Department official underPresident Reagan; and William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge whowas the director of the FBI under both Reagan and President George H.W.Bush.

Other members included Patricia Wald, the retired chief judge of theUS Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Harold Koh, dean ofthe Yale Law School; Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of the Stanford LawSchool; Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor; Stephen Saltzburg, aGeorge Washington University Law School professor; Mark Agrast, aformer legislative counsel for Representative William D. Delahunt ,Democrat of Quincy; and Thomas Susman, who worked in the JusticeDepartment under both Presidents Johnson and Nixon, and who was latercounsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In an interview, Edwards said the findings should be understood asrising above the politics of the moment. ``It's not about Bush; it'sabout what should be the responsibility of a president," Edwards said.``We are saying that the president of the United States has anobligation to follow the Constitution and exercise only the authoritythe Constitution gives him. That's a central tenet of Americanconservatism -- to constrain the centralization of power."

Bill-signing statements seen as vehicles to bypass laws, ABA panel finds - The Boston Globe

Specter prepping bill to sue Bush

WASHINGTON --A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements saidMonday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter,R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Specter's announcement came the same day that an American BarAssociation task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has side stepped his constitutional duty toeither sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard lawson national security and constitutional grounds.

"That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respondto a signing statement," said ABA president Michael Greco. Thepractice, he added "is harming the separation of powers."

Bush has challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers compiled by Specter's committee. The ABA estimated Bush has issued signing statements on more than 800 statutes, more than allother presidents combined.

Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.

But many of Bush's signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.

Still, the White House said signing statements are not intended to allow the administration to ignore the law.

"A great many of those signing statements may have little statements about questions about constitutionality," said White House spokesmanTony Snow. "It never says, 'We're not going to enact the law.'"

Specter's announcement intensifies his challenge of the administration's use of executive power on a number of policy matters.Of particular interest to him are two signing statements challenging the provisions of the USA Patriot Act renewal, which he wrote, and legislation banning the use of torture on detainees.

Bush is not without congressional allies on the matter. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge, has said that signing statements are nothing more than expressions of presidential opinion that carry no legal weight because federal courts are unlikely to consider them when deciding cases that challenge the same laws.

Specter prepping bill to sue Bush -

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1 comment:

Shadowflyer said...

Being a citizen of Pennsylvania Senator Spector unfortunately is my representative though he does not represent me nor many actual citizens of Pennsylvania. Spector is too much laywer and not enough American citizen.
This whole issue with comments on signed laws is just so much petty politics when we have so much real work that our reps need to be doping.

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