At one point, then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama was emphatic that he would not continue in issuing signing statements when bills crossed him as president – a product of George W. Bush’s two-terms where he issued 160 statements.
Obama was very critical of Bush over this issue during his 2008 campaign.
When he was prodded by The Boston Globe about the issue, Obama said it was acceptable to use statements “to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions,” but he promised not to use such statements to refashion laws.
“It is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end run around provisions designed to foster accountability.
I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law.”
But when Obama took office, he quickly changed his tune and began signing statements to his liking. Almost as if it was his plan all along.
And it became a pattern.
Obama has had a total of 37 signing statements, and 22 of them contained language claiming to reinterpret or construe the law a certain way.
Although the numbers are still far lower than the 160 statements President George W. Bush issued, Obama’s behavior was enough to earn a reprimand from the fact-checking organization PolitiFact, which has been keeping track of the President’s campaign promises.
Then just recently, President Obama said the annual defense policy bill which Congress sent him violated the Constitution — and yet, he signed it anyway.
Instead of vetoing the bill, Obama issued a statement saying he would modify the law in its execution, so he carries it out the way he thinks meets constitutional muster.
This is exactly what Bush did and Obama criticized for so long, but if we know anything about Obama he’s impervious to certain issues and he always ran a “do as I say, not as I do” administration.
He even said that kind of behavior was a dark spot on Bush’s presidency.
Obama has become a regular practitioner, issuing many signing statements purporting to alter the way Congress wrote laws and undermining the Constitution of our Founding Fathers.
Even in the past few weeks, the President has issued three signing statements shaping congressionally approved legislation, including one on water projects, and one on fishing rights in the Pacific.
The Washington Times reported:
“In the defense policy bill, Mr. Obama lodged a long list of objections and described how he would carry them out in ways he deemed appropriate under previous laws or the Constitution.
The White House and its Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for analyzing legislation, did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the signing statements, but administration critics said they constituted evidence of hypocrisy.”
John Yoo, the Justice Department’s lead lawyer on separation of powers in the Bush administrations said:
These signing statements show the difference between Obama as candidate and leader of his party and Obama as president. In the former capacity, he attacked the Bush administration for its alleged misuse of executive power.
Once in office, he relied on many of the exact same practices to advance his agenda and arguably went well beyond any previous president in his use of power on domestic issues.”
But outrage ensued nevertheless.
A Pulitzer Prize board awarded its prestigious journalism award to The Boston Globe for exposing the behavior, and the American Bar Association convened a special task force to study the matter.
But now the worries over signing statements have faded and nothing was done about it.