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  1. #1

    American Bar Association denounces Bush's Signing Statements


    American Bar Association denounces Bush's signing statements

    By Mark Silva

    Chicago Tribune


    WASHINGTON - President Bush has vetoed only one piece of legislation during more than five years in office, but he has issued more than 800 challenges to bills that he has signed into law with formal "signing statements," more than all of his predecessors combined.

    Now, however, a task force of the American Bar Association has concluded that the president's unprecedented stream of signing statements poses a dangerous challenge to the constitutional checks and balances central to power in the United States. One of the signing statements reserves the right to torture detainees held in the war on terror.

    The ABA report, to be released Monday, calls on Congress to exert more oversight and empower the courts to review presidential signing statements asserting the president's right to "ignore or not enforce laws." If unchecked, ABA President Michael Greco said in a prepared statement, the presidential use of signing statements "raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy."

    This hardly is the first report or court ruling to raise concerns about Bush's exercise of executive authority, with the Supreme Court recently overruling the president's decision to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with military tribunals without the approval of Congress. The president has asserted sweeping wartime powers since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    The White House maintains that Bush is not attempting to make any grab for executive power, and that Bush is not flouting the laws that he signs with the issuance of signing statements, but rather is raising constitutional concerns.

    "The president does not, and the administration does not, refuse to carry out the laws that have been passed by Congress and signed into law by the president," said White House press secretary Tony Snow, maintaining that Bush is not engaging in any "civil disobedience."

    "In the context of trying to preserve and protect and defend the Constitution ... there will be places within signing statements - caveats - where he has reservations," Snow said. "It is not unusual - although we have done it more than previous administrations - to list those reservations, if nothing else, as markers, for issues that may later rise to be points of controversy."

    But this does not square with many of the administration's own signing statements, according to Neal Sonnett, a Miami lawyer and former U.S. attorney and chairman of the ABA task force making the report Monday.

    "It's clear that a large number of the signing statements that have been issued by this administration claim the authority to disregard the law," Sonnett said. "This president is not the first president to do that. But he clearly has escalated the practice to what the task force believes is a dangerous new high. That has an impact on the separation of powers, and if it's left unchecked, it could do damage to our system and to the Constitution."

    The ABA report notes the breadth of Bush's signing statements, saying, "From the inception of the republic until 2000, presidents produced fewer than 600 signing statements taking issue with the bills they signed. According to the most recent update, in his one-and-a-half terms so far, President George Walker Bush ... has produced more than 800."

    The numbers do not represent separate signing statements, the ABA notes, but rather the specific number of challenges to laws contained within many signing statements. As of July 11, the ABA found that Bush has issued a total of 807 challenges.

    While the White House has asserted that it only expresses reservations, the ABA has cited examples in which the White House has indicated its intentions not to follow provisions in:

    _Two bills forbidding use of military intelligence in materials "not lawfully collected."

    _A bill requiring a report to Congress on the use of the USA Patriot Act to secretly search homes or seize private papers.

    _The "McCain amendment" forbidding any U.S. official from torturing a prisoner. While the administration insists it does not condone torture, the president's signing statement in December reserved the right to waive the torture ban if harsh interrogation might advance anti-terrorism efforts.

    _The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 requiring regular reports to Congress. The signing statement on intelligence reports to Congress called the requirement "advisory" and asserted that it "would be construed in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to withhold information" that could impair foreign relations or national security if released.

    "The problem about these guys is that they play winner-take-all politics on structural issues," said Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who has written on the subject. "They push as hard as they possibly can and they never back down."

    Bush voiced more than 500 objections to laws that he signed during his first term - including 48 that challenged his authority to withhold information from Congress in the interest of protecting national security and 37 that challenged his wartime authority.

    The ABA report disputes the White House's contention that signing statements are issued carefully. Bush's are "ritualistic, mechanical and generally carry no citation of authority or detailed explanation," the task force found. It noted that when Congress enacted a law requiring the attorney general to report on instances of officials refraining from carrying out law, the president attached a signing statement insisting on authority to withhold information.

    The Republican-run Senate has initiated hearings on the president's use of signing statements. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at a June hearing that "we are at a pivotal moment in our nation's history, where Americans are faced with a president who makes sweeping claims for almost unchecked executive power."

    The ABA task force report, which will be submitted for endorsement by the organization's House of Delegates annual meeting in early August, calls on Congress to enact two pieces of legislation. One would require the president to promptly report on all signing statements it has issued, and any time that he intends to disregard a law or decline to enforce it to also submit a report that is open to public inspection detailing "the reasons and legal basis for the statement."

    In addition, the report calls for legislation enabling Congress or individuals to seek judicial review of any case in which the president claims authority or states an intent to decline to enforce any part of a law that he has signed or interprets a law in conflict with "the clear intent of Congress."

    While the White House insists it is exercising a constitutional duty, the ABA report notes that the Constitution says nothing about signing statements. The Constitution speaks only of vetoes - and Bush issued his first last week, rejecting a bill authorizing expanded federal funding of research with embryonic stem cells.

    Still, since the time of James Monroe, presidents have issued signing statements. In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed a spending bill to build a road from Detroit to Chicago but attached a statement insisting that the road not be extended beyond Michigan.

    Jimmy Carter made greater use of statements than his predecessors had, the ABA found, but it was Ronald Reagan who first used statements "as a strategic weapon in a campaign to influence the way legislation was interpreted."

    Bush's father overtook Reagan in signing statements, the ABA said. Former President Bush issued 232 during his first term, compared with the 71 of Reagan's two terms.

    Bill Clinton issued fewer than his predecessor but more than Reagan.

    "When the president signs a bill and says he is not going to enforce parts of a bill that he finds unconstitutional, it is in effect an absolute veto, because the Congress has no power to override him," said Bruce Fein, a Washington lawyer and member of the ABA task force who served in the Reagan administration and drafted signing statements for Reagan.

    The ABA's 11-member task force also includes William Sessions, former FBI director and federal judge from Texas; Patricia Wald, a former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington; former Rep. Mickey Edwards, a Republican and Heritage Foundation founding trustee; and Charles Ogletree, a Harvard University law professor. Former U.S. Attorney Neal Sonnett is the task force's chairman.
    So, do you think the executive branch should have this kind of power without any checks or balances? Do you think bush is absuing it?

  2. #2

    I think we all agree that Bush sucks.

    Liberal Statistics.. but true none the less.
    2,560 US Soldiers Killed, 18,988 Wounded, 126,900 Remain in Iraq
    For your quick reading, I've listed key statistics about the Iraq War, taken primarily from data analyzed by various think tanks, including The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, and from mainstream media sources. Data is presented as of July 24, 2006, except as indicated.


    Spent & approved to spend in Iraq - $435 billion of US taxpayers' money

    Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of US taxpayers' money and $549.7 milion in spare parts shipped in 2004 to US contractors

    Halliburton Overcharges Classified by the Pentagon as Unreasonable and Unsupported - $1.4 billion


    Coalition Troops in Iraq - Total 146,900, including 126,900 from the US, 7,200 from the UK, and 11,800 from all other nations (other than Iraq)

    US Troop Casualities - 2,560 US troops; 98% male.
    Sponsored Links

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    Should U.S. Leave Iraq?Take Our Iraq Survey And Get Paid $300 In The Next 15 Minutes!Ahwa.org

    Political Bumper StickersBush - War - Impeachment - Peace anti-Bush pro-Democracy Stickerswww.bushbumperstickers.com
    90% non-officers; 77% active duty, 14% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 10% African-American, 11% Latino. 18% killed by non-hostile causes. 53% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 68% were from the US Army

    Non-US Troop Casualties - Total 229, with 114 from the UK

    US Troops Wounded - 18,988, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries (total excludes psychological injuries)

    US Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home

    US Military Helicopters Downed in Iraq - 51 total, 27 by enemy fire


    Private Contractors in Iraq, Working in Support of US Army Troops - 84,105

    Journalists killed - 74

    Journalists killed by US Forces - 14

    Iraqi Military and Police Casualties - 5,031

    Iraqi Civilians Killed, Estimated - 48,100 to 98,200

    Iraqi Insurgents Killed, Roughly Estimated - 55,000

    Non-Iraqi Contractors and Civilian Workers Killed - 401

    Non-Iraqi Kidnapped - 287, including 50 killed, 146 released, 3 escaped, 6 rescued and 82 status unknown.

    Daily insurgent attacks, Feb 2004 - 14

    Daily insurgent attacks, July 2005 - 70

    Daily insurgent attacks, July 2006 - 90

    Trained Iraqi Troops Needed by July 2006 272,566

    Trained Iraqi Troops, Per US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad in August 2005 - "Not very large."

    Trained Iraqi Troops Able to Fight Without Major US Support, as of March 2006 - Zero


    Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect

    Consumer Price Inflation in 2005 - 20%

    Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 25% in May 2006

    Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%

    Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000

    Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000

    Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000

    Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 11.8

    Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 7.6

    Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%

    Percentage of Iraqi Homes with Access to Piped Water - 78%

    Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%

    Hepatitis Outbreaks - 2002, 100; 2003, 170; 2004, 200.

    Children Enrolled in Primary School - 2000, 3.6 million; 2004, 4.3 million

    Telephone Subscribers - pre-war, 833,000; April 2006, 7.4 million

    RESULTS OF POLL Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)

    Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%

    Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security - less than 1%

    Iraqis who feel less ecure because of the occupation - 67%

    Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%

    Iraqis who rarely have safe, clean water - 71%

    Iraqis who never have enough electricity - 47%

  3. #3

    Quote Originally Posted by Koga
    I think we all agree that Bush sucks.

  4. #4

    I wasnt posting this as partisan hackery. Its a serious concern about unchecked power in our executive branch, I dont care who abuses it.

  5. #5

    I wonder if "liberal" has become such a dirty word because they think that it means that there is a political group even more liberal than Bush is. That certainly would be a little scary, though I doubt it exists.

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