signing statement

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signing statement,

written comment issued by the executive of a government when signing a bill into law. In the United States, such statements have traditionally been comparatively neutral declarations commenting on a piece of legislation in one of several ways: addressing the needs a given law serves, instructing subordinates on its implementation, making favorable comments, or disagreeing with a portion of the law. Signing statements have been used by presidents at least as far back as Andrew Jackson; some contend that James Monroe issued similar opinions. Occasionally presidents have, through signing statements, asserted their ability to disregard provisions of a law of which they disapproved or which they deemed unconstitutional. There was a considerable increase in the number of signing statements issued during the Reagan administration, a time in which these devices began to be used by the president to shape and influence laws and thus expand presidential power. All subsequent presidents, particularly Bill Clinton, have also issued many of these statements.

Signing statements did not generally become controversial, however, until the presidency of George W. Bush, who raised constitutional objections to more than 1,100 provisions of 160 pieces of legislation. In doing so, Bush contended that the president has the right not to enforce provisions of a law that he believes conflict with the Constitution. While Justice Dept. officials have upheld the legality of signing statements, many citizens, legislators, and legal scholars objected, asserting that signing statements amount to illegal line-item vetoes (see vetoveto
[Lat.,=I forbid], power of one functionary (e.g., the president) of a government, or of one member of a group or coalition, to block the operation of laws or agreements passed or entered into by the other functionaries or members.

In the U.S.
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) that Congress cannot override. In mid-2006 a bipartisan panel of the American Bar Association condemned President Bush's use of signing statements, maintaining that they often flouted the constitutional separation of powers, undermined the rule of law, and set a potentially harmful precedent. A 2007 study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office was also critical of Bush's signing statements, stating that they had been employed to circumvent numerous laws. The opinions of the ABA and GAO did not alter the use of signing statements by President Bush, and the issue remains one of the most contentious of the Bush administration.


See P. J. Cooper, By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action (2002).

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References in periodicals archive ?
Trump appended a signing statement arguing that the legislation was "significantly flawed" because it "improperly encroaches on executive power." It's heretical to say so, but he may be right.
And, of course, he is right that presidents affect interpretation of the Constitution whether dispatching troops, appending a signing statement to legislation, or giving a speech.
Former President John Quincy Adams wrote a blistering report for the House of Representatives denouncing President John Tyler for issuing a signing statement casting doubt on the constitutionality of a Whig-sponsored apportionment bill.
objections are constitutional in nature, the signing statement does
Obama objected to the broad provisions of section 1021 and issued a signing statement, arguing that it provided too much leeway for the U.S.
However, even though the President now wields this enormous power, he adamantly denies in his signing statement that he will ever "authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens." But the President still signed the bill, though his signing statement is not the same thing as a law, irrespective of how unconstitutional that law may be.
Quinn, a Democrat and a Catholic, said in his signing statement that this had been the "most difficult decision" he's had to make as governor.
One indication of President Obama's position was set out in his March 11, 2009, "signing statement" to House Bill 1105.
It wasn't Obama's first signing statement. Earlier, he issued similar statements regarding provisions in legislation relating to spending, commissions to govern public lands in New York, an investigation of the financial crisis and - take a deep breath, Republicans - Ronald Reagan's birthday.
Unfortunately, within a week of that memo, Obama attached his own signing statement to the $410 billion omnibus bill.
Schwarzenegger said in a signing statement. "By preventing the spread of infection, the population [not only is] healthier, but avoids the costly medical interventions required for people living with HIV and AIDS."
The first controversy arising in this context stemmed from a signing statement issued by Andrew Jackson in 1830 that raised objections to an appropriations bill that involved internal improvements.