President Obama Issues “Signing Statement” Indicating He Won’t Abide by Provision in Budget Bill

Apr 15, 2011 6:28pm

In a statement issued Friday night, President Obama took issue with some provisions in the budget bill – and in one case simply says he will not abide by it.

Last week the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans were involved in intense negotiations over not only the size of the budget for the remainder of the FY2011 budget, and spending cuts within that budget, but also several GOP “riders,” or policy provisions attached to the bill.

One rider – Section 2262 — de-funds certain White House adviser positions – or “czars.” The president in his signing statement declares that he will not abide by it.

“The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” he wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it. Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Therefore, the president wrote, “the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.”

In other words: we know what you wanted that provision to do, but we don’t think it’s constitutional, so we will interpret it differently than the way you meant it.

During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama was quite critical of the Bush administration’s uses of signing statements telling the Boston Globe in 2007 that the “problem” with the Bush administration “is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation.”

Then-Sen. Obama said he would “not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law.” 

The president said that no one "doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that." 

Another rider bans the use of federal funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries unless certain conditions are met. 

“Requiring the executive branch to certify to additional conditions would hinder the conduct of delicate negotiations with foreign countries and therefore the effort to conclude detainee transfers in accord with our national security,” the president wrote.

Another rider denies the ability of the Obama administration to prosecute Gitmo detainees in criminal court. 

“The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us,” the president wrote. “Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.”

The president said in his statement he will work with Congress to repeal those provisions.

-Jake Tapper

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