More Bush Signing Statements

Despite widespread criticism even from conservative scholars, Bush continues to issue ridiculous signing statements. The latest is on the homeland security bill passed recently, which included requirements that the FEMA director actually be qualified for the job. Since Bush apparently still thinks "Brownie" did a "heck of a job", he decided to essentially negate that section of the bill:

Bush signed the homeland-security bill on Wednesday morning. Then, hours later, he issued a signing statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions. Bush maintains that under his interpretation of the Constitution, the FEMA provision interfered with his power to make personnel decisions.

The law, Bush wrote, ``purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

Roughly translated: even though I signed the bill into law, I'll ignore it if I feel like it. And that was not the only provision he claimed authority to ignore?

But Bush's signing statement challenged at least three-dozen laws specified in the bill. Among those he targeted is a provision that empowers the FEMA director to tell Congress about the nation's emergency management needs without White House permission. This law, Bush said, ``purports . . . to limit supervision of an executive branch official in the provision of advice to the Congress." Despite the law, he said, the FEMA director would be required to get clearance from the White House before telling lawmakers anything.

The most frustrating thing about this is that the courts will not grant standing to the Congress to challenge the executive for not doing their job. In fact, no one really has standing to do so. Which means Bush can simply refuse to do what the constitution and his oath of office demands - the faithful execution of the laws - and no one can challenge that refusal. Goodbye, checks and balances. It was nice knowing you. Bush is on a zealous mission to destroy any and all limitations on his unbridled authority. It's time for impeachment. Like now.

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The first time I read about Bush's signing statements, I was upset, angry, dismayed. Now, sadly, I still feel those things, but I also am not surprised anymore. This is how the current regime operates. What really upsets me these days is that no one does anything about it. The blogs light up with outrage for a day or so, the Dems bemoan the fact that it's happening yet again, but no one does anything. Why hasn't Bush been impeached? Don't we have the right to fire bad employees?

The law, Bush wrote, ``purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

This sounds a little bit like the controversy that led to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. In his case, though, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act to prevent Johnson from dismissing a cabinet member, namely the Secretary of War. Johnson was narrowly impeached ostensibly for violating this law.

In the end, the Supreme Court vindicated Johnson by ruling that the Tenure of Office Act was an unconstitutional limit on the President's power of appointment. Which is what Johnson had said when he vetoed the bill (later overridden) rather than signing & ignoring it.

I'm sure this isn't an original thought, but the Presidient took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," and then signed in to effect a law that he himself considers to be contrary to the Constitution.

On these grounds alone -- regardless of what one thinks about signing statements -- hasn't he failed to fulfill his oath? And if he has publicly and proudly failed to fulfill his oath, and promises to continue doing so, isn't that in itself sufficient basis for removal from office?

Not that I expect the partisans from his own party to do anything of the sort ...

This and the other obviously unconstitutionally things that Bush has done certainly seem worse to me that lying about getting a blow-job from an intern.

"It's about the rule of law!" screeched a chorus of Republicans over and over during the Lewinsky scandal. But now that we have their guy almost literally pissing on the highest law in the land (the Constitution), in clear violation of his oath of office, all one can hear is a lone cricket chirping softly in the distance...

...A cricket that obviously hates American and wants the terrorists to win that is.

It seems to this Constitutional layman that Bush is wielding a line item veto, even though the practice has already been declared unconstitutional in Clinton v. New York. Would that be sufficient grounds for impeachment?

I'm sure the Democrats have done something in the last 33 years that could be argued to be a precursor to this.

Wow, so Bush wishes to reserve for himself the right to choose unqalified personnel to fill posts. I don't see any viewpoint on this one that has him come out looking good.

By somnilista, FCD (not verified) on 08 Oct 2006 #permalink

How come I was never taught stuff like this in school? We learned about the duties and responsibilities of each branch of government, and not that any branch could shirk their responsibilities. It's remarkable that a group of lawmakers could scream for impeachment because of the activities of one president's penis, yet remain silent when another president wipes his ass with the Constitution.

The US House can impeach the President for whatever reason they choose: The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" has never been precisely defined. However, abuse of executive power, neglect of duty or obstruction of justice are considered pretty good criteria and the 'signing statements' pretty much runs afoul of at least the former two. It also helps if the opposite party is in control of the house. For example, should Hillary Clinton ever gets elected President, she'd better pray that Democrats control the House. If not, it wouldn't matter what she did; they'd be screaming for her impeachment.

*****
This 'signing statements' stuff is a Cheney/Rumsfeld-created fiction that harkens back to the Nixon days. It is not a whole lot different from business as usual except for the blatant disrepect of Congressional authority, which is both new and entirely unnecessary (demonstrating that Cheney and Rumsfeld are imperious fools for waving this around in public). In the past, all Presidents have simply ignored or thwarted Congressional mandates that they didn't want to enforce, provided they had the political capital to get away with it. A president can understaff positions or 'reinterpret' the execution of guidelines. A president can also place complete idiots in charge (Wait, been there, done that...). There are many ways to ignore laws. But you don't advertise it.

One positive thing I will say for G.W. Bush: He is really making his father look good, in comparison. *That* is no small feat. Who wouldn't rather have had #41 at the helm in 2001 and today?

By Unsympathetic reader (not verified) on 08 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm beginning to wonder if Clinton's impeachment wasn't part of a long-term strategy to undermine the very concept of impeachment. Maybe they weren't after Clinton; they were out to dull the axe.

"It's time for impeachment. Like now."

I don't know why this sentiment is considered "impolitic" or "shrill" with the power brokers who are running the U.S. It seems fairly simple to me: a President who declares himself above the law is violating the Constitution and should be removed from office.

In what other job would an employee get away with redefining his own job description at his whim? Bush is trying to re-introduce Divine Right as a governance concept, but rather than doing so openly as medieval monarchs did, he is trying to slip in in through the back door, using the language of "unitary executive". It's wrong and he needs to be punished.

Decrepitoldfool:
You may have something there, though i would doubt it was deliberate. But it is why I think impeachment, though deserved 20 times over, would be a tactical blunder unless Bush does something, after the new Democratic Congress is in, even more egregious so they literally have no choice.

The trouble with doing it now -- besides the fact that it would give us President Cheney (remember, there was no VP when Johnson was serving, and it was only Agnew's 'fall from grace' and his replacement by Ford that made Nixon's impeachment possible) -- is that all the wingnuts would start claiming that it was 'just payback for the Clinton Impeachment' and this would so muddy the waters that the facts in the case would be lost. (Of course, if the Foley Follies do an even better job of destroying Republican credibility, no one will care what they say, but it hasn't quite happened yet.)

But it is why I think impeachment, though deserved 20 times over, would be a tactical blunder unless Bush does something, after the new Democratic Congress is in, even more egregious so they literally have no choice.

Really? Breaking the law isn't enough?

The trouble with doing it now -- ...-- is that all the wingnuts would start claiming that it was 'just payback for the Clinton Impeachment'

So, if somebody wrongly accused you of burgling his house, would you show your reasonableness by letting him burgle your own house? I never quite buy this line of argument. Basically it says "I'm going to let Republicans get away with abuses of power because they accused Clinton of abusing power."

Or, in other words "I'm intimidated."

and this would so muddy the waters that the facts in the case would be lost.

I guess there's no point in trying, then! Since any attempt to clean up the government will be defeated by the possibility of wingnut stupidity, our only recourse is to play along with the madness.

Excuse me for not finding this to be a compelling argument.

Here's a good reason for impeachment:

The President is breaking the law. Purposefully, without apology, and while claiming that it is his prerogrative as the President to do so. This attitude encapsulates "abuse of power" more than any other could.

There's a reason people call him the Chimperor.

1) His decisions and speech at times remind people of a poorly-trained monkey. Whether it's an act to be 'folksy' or just lack of talent at anything but coke and hookers, we can't conclusively say yet.

2) His unchecked power grap to make himself the unquestioned ruler of Murika, replete with toadying legislature and irrelevant courts.

Regarding to the first issue in the signing statement, directed to that the FEMA director actually be qualified for the job, that Shrub issued a signing statement objecting to that is really rather funny. That should send one rolling on the floor laughing. The obvious implication of that is that he wants to reserve the right to nominate someone (I assume he/she has to be confirmed by the Senate) who is not qualified for the job. Of course, if the nominee does have to be confirmed by the Senate, the Senate can reject the nominee.

Regarding the second issue that you mention, the provision that empowers the FEMA director to tell Congress about the nation's emergency management needs without White House permission, I'm not entirely sure that he isn't correct on that, since it does seem to infringe on the president's ability to manage the executive branch.

I'm with RickD.
If the current abuses don't warrant the entry conditions for impeachment, it is hard to imagine what would.

raj wrote:

Regarding the second issue that you mention, the provision that empowers the FEMA director to tell Congress about the nation's emergency management needs without White House permission, I'm not entirely sure that he isn't correct on that, since it does seem to infringe on the president's ability to manage the executive branch.

I don't think so. What he is essentially doing is gutting congressional oversight by reserving the right to alter those reports that are required by law to be given to the appropriate congressional committees. If he doesn't like those statutory requirements, then he needs to file suit and get them overturned as unconstitutional. He cannot decide on his own that he doesn't like them and therefore he can ignore them.

Prup -

Who gives a danmn what the wingnuts say about it? They are trying to pin the Foley scandal on the dems for gods sake. It doesn't matter what the dems do, the wingnuts on the right are going to criticize them. This is no different in my mind than the arguments against filibustering Alito. The ultimate problem with this thinking is that if you are too afraid to use any tool at your disposal, your useless.

Echoing a lot of other people on this thread, how many crimes and how bad do they have to get before he gets impeached? He passed the litnus test of the republicant's a long time ago.

Ed Brayton | October 9, 2006 04:01 PM

I understand your point, but I wonder. While your point has an interesting emotional appeal, when the head of an agency is testifying before congress, he (or she) is testifying on behalf of the administration--as an administration mouthpiece--not on behalf of himself. It seems to me that the administration should be controlling what he testifies to, if he indeed is speaking on behalf of the administration.

Note that that is not necessarily the case with the career employees, whom Congress could call in an attempt to determine the veracity of the information provided by the political appointees--such as the heads of agencies. The career employees obviously would not be testifying on behalf of the administration.

Two, do you know of any other legislation regarding heads of agencies--political employees--that empower those agency heads to testify as to things that their respective administrations have not approved?

Three, the Congress has its own investigative body, the GAO--the General Accountability Office, formerly the General Accounting Office--that it can use to verify the testimony of administration officials. I am not sure what investigative tools that office has, but it has shown itself at least somewhat effective in determining the veracity of testimony of administration officials--I presume by interviewing career employees.