Obama to undo signing statements — sort of

As critical as I’ve been of President Obama, he’s done a few things I support–halting the program that allows Mexican trucks on American roads, for one.

Here’s another: he’s ordered a review of the hundreds of unconstitutional signing statements used by President Bush to circumvent laws he didn’t like.

But wait — that doesn’t mean President Obama won’t use them himself.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in a sideways jab at Bush, said that President Obama will not attempt to invalidate laws with signing statements as President Bush did. Instead, Obama will use signing statements as they were used prior to President Bush. The President will “not ask that laws be disallowed simply by executive fiat,” he said during a Monday press conference.

“When signing legislation, Bush often would use such statements to direct officials to ignore parts of the law he thought were incorrect or restricted the administration’s constitutional powers,” said the Associated Press.

President Bush’s application of signing statements doubled all the statements of all the prior American presidents, combined. He was roundly criticized for effectively ignoring congressional statutes, coming under fire from at least one former president, federal agencies, watchdog groups, members of his own party, political pundits and the American Bar Association, which called the practice as used by Bush, “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.”

“But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intends to use signing statements himself if Congress sends him legislation that has provisions he decides are unconstitutional,” reported the New York Times. “He pledged to use a modest approach when doing so, but said there was a role for the practice if used appropriately.”

“In exercising my responsibility to determine whether a provision of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional, I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are well-founded,” wrote Obama in a memo obtained by the Times.

So rather than use the Solicitor General to litigate when he feels he’s been asked to sign an unconstitutional bill, President Obama will simply — ask that the law be disallowed by executive fiat.

Ask George W. Bush. He’ll tell you that’s all he was doing.

Not to pat myself on the back (again), but I saw this coming a year ago.

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