Obama in 2008 on Bush signing statements:
"That's not part of his power, but this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he goes along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress," then-Senator Obama said as a presidential candidate in 2008.
This is the Obama White House today on signing statements:
President Obama said Friday he will not be bound by at least 20 policy riders in the 2012 omnibus funding the government, including provisions pertaining to Guantanamo Bay and gun control.
After he signed the omnibus into law Friday, the White House released a concurrent signing statement saying Obama will object to portions of the legislation on constitutional grounds.
Signing statements are highly controversial, and their legality is disputed.
"I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress's consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient," Obama said in a statement as he signed the bill into law.
The signing statement says that on the issue of accused terrorist detainees, Obama will interpret and apply provisions that bar the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts."
Obama also objected to Defense provisions in the bill that limit the president's ability to put troops under foreign command and require 30 days advance notice to Congress for any use of the military which would involve more than $100,000 in construction costs.
I agree with the Obama of 2008. Just because presidents are incompetent and can't get what they want from congress doesn't mean they can run off and decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore. "Gridlock" is not an excuse. And I would say to the president the same thing I say to my conservative fellows who pronounce this or that law "unconstitutional": The president (or conservative activists) doesn't get to decide that question. The constitutionality of a law is determined by the Supreme Court and no one else. If the president (or activists) want to challenge the constitutionality of a bill, or provision in a bill, take it to the courts.
That's a slow, painstaking process - as it was designed to be. Making law is not a partisan exercise subject to the emotions and bias of factions, but rather a deliberative process that requires prudence, thought, and an eye for unintended consequences. Signing statements are, as the president noted in 2008, an "end-run around congress." Someone should challenge the president's ability to issue these daggars aimed at the heart of representative democracy and get them banned once and for all.