by mcastellon on January 10, 2006

Interesting article from Friday that has gone surprising little play in the MSM:

WASHINGTON – President Bush agreed with great fanfare last month to accept a ban on torture, but he later quietly reserved the right to ignore it, even as he signed it into law.

Acting from the seclusion of his Texas ranch at the start of New Year’s weekend, Bush said he would interpret the new law in keeping with his expansive view of presidential power. He did it by issuing a bill-signing statement – a little-noticed device that has become a favorite tool of presidential power in the Bush White House.

In fact, Bush has used signing statements to reject, revise or put his spin on more than 500 legislative provisions. Experts say he has been far more aggressive than any previous president in using the statements to claim sweeping executive power – and not just on national security issues.

Reagan adopted the strategy and used signing statements to challenge 71 legislative provisions, according to Kelley’s tally. President George H.W. Bush challenged 146 laws; President Clinton challenged 105. The current president has lodged more than 500 challenges so far.

The absolute best part of the article is at the very end:

In 2003, lawmakers tried to get a handle on Bush’s use of signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill that required the department to inform Congress whenever the administration decided to ignore a legislative provision on constitutional grounds.

Bush signed the bill, but issued a statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.

It would be remarkable to travel back in time, say 50 years, and see the look on people’s faces as we told them that in 2005 we’re arguing the relevancy of the Constitution to the executive branch of government.

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