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mburbank mburbank is offline
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Old May 1st, 2006, 10:49 AM        # of Laws W claims the right to disobey now in the hundreds
Boston Globe

Washington - President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws - many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

"There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. "This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

For the first five years of Bush's presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush's challenges to the laws he has signed.

Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush's position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has "been used for several administrations" and that "the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution."

But the words "in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution" are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files "signing statements" - official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills - sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

"He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises - and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
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KevinTheOmnivore KevinTheOmnivore is offline
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Old May 1st, 2006, 11:14 AM       
1. Max, do you have a link for this? Not that I don't trust you, I'd just like to see who wrote it and use it as a jumping off point.

2. "They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has "been used for several administrations" and that "the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.""

So my question is this, and the Globe makes no mention of it-- How does this compare to past presidents? If Bush is at 750, where was Clinton at this point? What about other presidents?

If this is all just standard then we seem to have a more systemic problem, one that is being exacerbated and standardized by this prez. However, if Bush is abusing (or "exercising") his constitutional authority far beyond that of any other previous president, then I think we have a problem.

Once again, he may be harming no one. Like the article said, a lot of this stuff might be tedious, regulatory-type stuff that nobody wants to bother with. But that won't stop future presidents from using his precedent to fuck us.

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Old May 1st, 2006, 11:31 AM       
I can find the link if you need it, but I think it's Charlie Savage.

I'm also pretty certain that the WAY this administration is using signing statements is new, as is the phrase "In a manner consistent with the constitution", a phrase that would be entirely redundant and if necessary at all would need to go on every law if they didn't mean a presidential interpretation of the laws constitutionality. This goes hand in glove with W not ever vetoing anything.
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 04:16 PM       
Kev; Here's another Charlie Savage piece, this one detailing Arlen Specters intent to hold a hearing on this very subject.

Hearing Vowed on Bush's Powers
****By Charlie Savage
****The Boston Globe

****Wednesday 03 May 2006

Senator questions bypassing of laws.



****Washington - The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a "very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

****"There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. "What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"

****Specter said he plans to hold the hearing in June. He said he intends to call administration officials to explain and defend the president's claims of authority, as well to invite constitutional scholars to testify on whether Bush has overstepped the boundaries of his power.

****The senator emphasized that his goal is "to bring some light on the subject." Legal scholars say that, when confronted by a president encroaching on their power, Congress's options are limited. Lawmakers can call for hearings or cut the funds of a targeted program to apply political pressure, or take the more politically charged steps of censure or impeachment.

****Specter's announcement followed a report in the Sunday Globe that Bush has quietly asserted the authority to ignore provisions in 750 bills he has signed - about 1 in 10.

****Over the past five years, Bush has stated that he can defy any statute that conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. In many instances, Bush cited his role as head of the executive branch or as commander in chief to justify the exemption.

****The statutes that Bush has asserted the right to override include numerous rules and regulations for the military, job protections for whistle-blowers who tell Congress about possible government wrongdoing, affirmative action requirements, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

****Bush made the claims in "signing statements," official documents in which a president lays out his interpretation of a bill for the executive branch, creating guidelines to follow when it implements the law. The statements are filed without fanfare in the federal record, often following ceremonies in which the president made no mention of the objections he was about to raise in the bill, even as he signed it into law.

****Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said via e-mail that if Specter calls a hearing, "by all means we will ensure he has the information he needs." She pointed out that other presidents dating to the 19th century have "on occasion" issued statements that raise constitutional concerns about provisions in new laws.

****But while previous presidents did occasionally challenge provisions in laws while signing them, legal scholars say, the frequency and breadth of Bush's use of that power are unprecedented.

****Bush is also the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, an act that gives public notice that he is rejecting a law and can be overridden by Congress. Instead, Bush has used signing statements to declare that he can bypass numerous provisions in new laws.

****The statements attracted little attention in Congress or the media until recently, when Bush used them to reserve a right to bypass a new torture ban and new oversight provisions in the Patriot Act.

****"The problem is that you have a statute, which Congress has passed, and then the signing statements negate that statute," Specter said. "And there are more and more of them coming. If the president doesn't like something, he puts a signing statement on it."

****Specter added: "He put a signing statement on the Patriot Act. He put a signing statement on the torture issue. It's a very blatant encroachment on [Congress's constitutional] powers. If he doesn't like the bill, let him veto it."

****It was during a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the FBI that Specter yesterday announced his intent to hold a hearing on Bush's legal authority. Another committee member, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, also questioned Bush's assertions that he has the authority to give himself an exemption from certain laws.
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The One and Only... The One and Only... is offline
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 05:29 PM       
I don't find this particularly suprising. Presidents have disregarded technicalities for quite a long time.

Jackson is a perfect example. So is FDR, for that matter. I'd stick Adams up there with his Alien and Sedition acts...
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KevinTheOmnivore KevinTheOmnivore is offline
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 09:56 PM       
All of those presidents had at least some of their exaggerted interpretations smacked down by the Court or Congress.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 10:36 AM       
And W. is positing that neither the courst nor congress have the authority to over rule his interpretations.

It's a difference of a whole level of magnitude.

At least so far (and since neither congress or the courts seem to know where they left their spine and/or sack it's hard to see how it will play out) the difference between 'Lets see how far I can push this" and "I am the state."

There NEEDS to be a challenge to this, because barring one, the country has no way of knowing what it is. W is acting as if we all know we have changed into some knew type of state and he doesn't need to waste any time declaring or defending it. The longer we as a nation let it lie as a Fait acomplie (or however you spell that) the better a chance it has of becoming reality.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 11:04 AM       
Bush is just making note of the fact that America's greatest president illegally suppressed habeus corpus for years. Great minds think alike, you know.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 11:19 AM       
His dad did that?
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mburbank mburbank is offline
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Old May 4th, 2006, 11:29 AM       
While I do not support that act, it was presented as being for the duration of a speciffic war that one could define the end of.

The 'War n Terror' is a conceit less defined than even the cold war. There is no way of even describing a realistic 'end' to it. W is proposing vast extensions of Presidential power and neither he nor anyone else seems to be willing to arguwe over the fact that they are intended to be permanent.
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