Well, this is very interesting:

The House rebuked President Obama for trying to ignore restrictions to international aid payments, voting overwhelmingly for an amendment forcing the administration to abide by its constraints.

House members approved an amendment by a 429-2 vote to have the Obama administration pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards and require a Treasury Department report on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) activities. The amendment to a 2010 funding bill for the State Department and foreign operations was proposed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), but it received broad bipartisan support.

The conditions on World Bank and IMF funding were part of the $106 billion war supplemental bill that was passed last month. Obama, in a statement made as he signed the bill, said that he would ignore the conditions.

They would “interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the Congress prior to such negotiations or discussions,” Obama said in the signing statement.

I don’t remember the Republicans in Congress showing much concern about George W. Bush’s signing statements. But now that a Democrat is in office they move in a bloc to cut off any Treasury Department spending that is not in compliance with the law as they wrote it. I suppose they are to be commended for learning their lesson. Hah!

The use of signing statements isn’t new and it didn’t begin with Dubya. Dubya just took the practice to an entirely higher level. President Obama has legitimate concerns about the impact of this bill’s language. In his signing statement Obama wasn’t very specific, but he was objecting to language that would mandate a certain policy towards the World Bank and that would dictate that the World Bank carry out certain reporting tasks. The policy goals are laudable: more labor friendly scoring, and more transparency. But the World Bank isn’t the United States Bank, even if we’ve always treated it that way. It’s not clear that Congress can dictate policy towards an entity like the World Bank even if they are funding it. They are treating it more as a U.S. property than a recipient of foreign aid.

The real question is whether or not Obama should have simply vetoed the War Supplemental funding because of this particular language. The Courts are loathe to adjudicate disputes like this, but would probably rule for the president if forced to take one side or the other. Yet, I approve of the policy goals in the bill and I also like seeing Congress flex its muscles and assert its authority. I just wonder why this only happens to Democratic presidents.

Update [2009-7-10 11:40:30 by BooMan]: Having carefully reviewed the offending language, I am not sure how the Supreme Court would rule. The core dispute would seem to be whether Congress has the power to compel the Secretary of Treasury to set their policy and issue orders to the United States Executive Directors serving at the World Bank and IMF, or if the president retains that power.

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