I am not making this up. Arlen Specter is planning on introducing a bill that will allow Congress to sue President Bush for his abuse of “signing statements” that increasingly look like an end run around Congress:
“We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will…authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president’s acts declared unconstitutional,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.
Specter’s announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.
Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.
“That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respond to a signing statement,” said ABA president Michael Greco. The practice, he added “is harming the separation of powers.”
Bush has challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers compiled by Specter’s committee. The ABA estimated Bush has issued signing statements on more than 800 statutes, more than all other presidents combined.
Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.
But many of Bush’s signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.
A line-item veto has already been declared unconstitutional. Why does Bush think he can get away with this? Probably because the Republican-led Congress has let him get away with everything else so far.
This is great news, but Specter cannot be trusted. He’s already trying to let the President weasel out of punishment (and court) for his unchecked wiretapping and his end run around of the FISA court (notice a pattern here?). But hopefully Specter will show spine for once.
But I wouldn’t count on it. Change is gonna come, but it’s gonna have to come from us, the common people. We need to take to the streets.