Bush Has Challenged 1,000 Laws through “Loophole"
Presidential Signing Statements Called “Loophole In Constitution”
By challenging more than 1,000 laws with some 150 signing statements, President Bush has turned those statements into an override-proof, line-item veto that could effectively end the ability of Congress to impose checks and balances on his presidency, says the reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for disclosing their abuse.
The number of signing statements issued by Bush “is almost double that of all previous presidents in history combined,” said the Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage, winner of the 2007 prize in the category of national reporting.
Savage made his comments in the Comcast interview “Books of Our Times,” sponsored by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. He told host Dean Lawrence Velvel that, with signing statements, “There is no mechanism for Congress to say ‘Well, we disagree with you the way there is’ with a real constitutional veto.”
“And so it’s kind of a loophole in the Constitution” that “the executive branch enforces the law and it enforces the law against itself and if it chooses not to do it it means that no on else is able to do it,” Savage said. “It’s the old problem of a free society who polices the police, who rules the rulers.”
Savage noted that the American Bar Association “thinks that signing statements are per se, unconstitutional, that the president has only two choices, either to sign the bill and enforce and obey all of it or to veto the bill and that’s it.”
Savage pointed out the president’s signing statements vitiated the McCain torture ban, oversight provisions that were added by Congress to the Patriot Act, and “all kinds of affirmative actions regulations, requirements to give reports to congress about all kinds of things.”
“It’s all over the map, anything that requires the executive branch to do something or forbids it from doing something,” Savage said.
He went on to say, “So, this totally new thing and as it started to come to light it explained why Bush was not vetoing anything.”
Savage noted that while the first President Bush and former President Bill Clinton each “issued a bunch”, “the Bush-Cheney administration took this to a new level.”
On another issue, Savage said the Bush administration politicized hiring of attorneys for the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to come up with a staff that opposed affirmative action and had little interest in filing suits where discrimination laws had been violated.
Prior to 2001, when a vacancy occurred, a committee of career attorneys would screen candidates and conduct interviews and decide who to hire, Savage said, but this was changed the following year under Attorney General Ashcroft. “Now the political appointees did all that processing themselves,” Savage said.
The result was Justice hired lawyers “that had been working for groups that were attacking affirmative action programs,” Savage said. “Instead of filing big law suits alleging systematic discrimination against African-Americans that had been the bread-and-butter of that agency they were suddenly filing unprecedented law suits alleging reverse discrimination against white people or against Christian groups,” diverting the agency’s resources “into a way the White House found more politically palatable.”
Savage added, “It was a smart way they (Bush administration) had figured out to seize political control and impose their political control over the executive branch.”
The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a provider of affordable, quality legal education to minorities, immigrants, and other underserved populations that would otherwise be unable to attend law school and enter the legal profession.