Specter is making a ‘statement’

MAKING A STATEMENT….Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has caved to White House demands on a wide variety of issues, but when it comes to presidential signing statements, the Pennsylvania senator has actually been pretty good. A year ago, he even tried to introduce legislation that would allow Congress to sue the president over his use of these legally dubious documents. He asked at the time, “What’s the point of having a statute if … the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn’t like? … If he doesn’t like the bill, let him veto it.”

Not surprisingly, Specter’s Republican colleagues quickly would put the kibosh on the proposal. John McCain helped kill the bill, arguing, “I think the president will enforce the law.” (Yes, McCain’s child-like naivete is rather amusing in retrospect.)

Specter, however, is quite right. We have a bizarre dynamic at play: Congress passes bills, Bush signs the bills into law, and then, in several instances, after the president issues signing statements, the Bush administration decides not to do what the law mandates.

To his credit, Specter is giving his bill another shot.

Frustrated by the Bush administration’s continued use of presidential signing statements to challenge or ignore provisions of Congressionally approved legislation, Senate Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has reintroduced legislation to rein in President Bush’s ability to use the tactic.

Specter, who has long been a critic of Bush’s use of signing statements, quietly introduced his Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007 on Friday.

“The president cannot use a signing statement to rewrite the words of a statute nor can he use a signing statement to selectively nullify those provisions he does not like,” Specter said in a floor statement.

Specter added, “If the president is permitted to rewrite the bills that Congress passes and cherry-pick which provisions he likes and does not like, he subverts the constitutional process designed by our framers.”

To which the White House apparently responded, “Duh.”

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation