As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Signing Statements

This was a bill, the war supplemental, which the President orchestrated, amended and whipped heavily. One provision, to provide some accountability on the funds delivered to the IMF, didn't meet to his liking. So he essentially nullified it.

The Obama administration announced in the statement it would disregard provisions of the legislation that, among other things, would compel the Obama administration to pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards and require the Treasury department to report to Congress on the activities of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"Provisions of this bill...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 a statement.

"I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations," he added.

If this President or future Presidents want a line-item veto, they could ask for one. However, they wouldn't get far since such a law was declared unconstitutional back in 1996. So instead, this signing statement process gets used to nullify certain elements of a statute. Obama has used 5 in his first 5 months or so, and about the only difference from Bush is that he makes the statements public immediately instead of having them discovered later. That's transparency, but not quite the kind I can believe in.

In this case, Congress could probably fashion their desired result better in the legislation than telling the executive what to say to the World Bank. As holders of the purse strings, they could simply set limits if certain labor or environmental targets are not met. Actually, both sides are overstepping their boundaries a bit here. At some point, we need a clearer definition of the roles of the branches of government when it comes to legislation, and so hopefully the courts can provide such a remedy.

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