Thursday, July 12, 2007

Signing Statements Erode Constitutional Balance

Recently, the General Accounting Office studied nineteen instances where the president issued so-called "signing statements." In such statements, the president essentially begins the process of interpreting legislation – up to and including declaring provisions unconstitutional, hence often refusing to enforce them.The GAO study found that in nearly 1/3 of the cases studied, the administration failed to enforce the law as enacted. This approach is especially worrisome for several reasons.First, these signing statements tend to move authority from the legislative branch to the executive, upsetting our delicate system of checks and balances. Next, these statements grant the president power not given by the Constitution, allowing him to usurp powers of the judicial branch. Finally, the idea of agencies refusing to enforce the law as enacted sets precedent for the type of run away administrative actions our constitution was expressly enacted in order to avoid.Although these signing statements are at record high numbers, the problem is not with a single administration. Contrary to the claims of those who raise this issue for purely political purposes, the most significant challenge to liberty presented by these statements is that they can serve to further erode our constitutional republic.

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