The Boston Globe reports on the “more than 750 laws enacted since [Bush} took office” that he has “quietly claimed the authority to disobey”.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ”whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
The most controversial, however, are the law against torture and the reporting requirement for the Patriot Act.
For the first five years of Bush’s presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.
The President can’t be bothered to give detailed reports to Congress. And he asserts the right to ignore the prohibition against torture. It’s not that he vetoes bills he doesn’t like, he just issues signing statements that eviscerate the intent or change the meaning of the legislation. You can see how it works below the fold.
Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation’s sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.
Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files “signing statements” — official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.
In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills — sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.
”He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises — and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened,” said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
Many of Bush’s signing statements have involved the military. Bills prohibiting the military from engaging in combat in Colombia, or from using illegally obtained intelligence have simply been shrugged off by Bush as he insists he has the inherent constitutional authority to decide all matters involving the armed forces.
‘The president is daring Congress to act against his positions, and they’re not taking action because they don’t want to appear to be too critical of the president, given that their own fortunes are tied to his because they are all Republicans,” said Jack Beermann, a Boston University law professor. ”Oversight gets much reduced in a situation where the president and Congress are controlled by the same party.”
Said Golove, the New York University law professor: ”Bush has essentially said that ‘We’re the executive branch and we’re going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'”
It isn’t just a matter of winning a branch of Congress back so we can have check on the expansion of executive power. The conflict between the statutory language of bills that Congress passes and the actual way the bureaucracy interprets them, will cause lasting confusion and damage to the proper functioning of the federal government.
Cooper, the Portland State University professor who has studied Bush’s first-term signing statements, said the documents are being read closely by one key group of people: the bureaucrats who are charged with implementing new laws.
Lower-level officials will follow the president’s instructions even when his understanding of a law conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, crafting policies that may endure long after Bush leaves office, Cooper said.
“Years down the road, people will not understand why the policy doesn’t look like the legislation,” he said.
Just one more lasting legacy of the worst administration ever.