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President, Vice President, and Executive Office of the President

Presidential Signing Statements

Resources in this category:
   American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers (July 1, 2006) (American Bar Association)
The task force released unanimous recommendations to:
  • oppose, as contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers, a President's issuance of signing statements to claim the authority or state the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress;
  • urge the President, if he believes that any provision of a bill pending before Congress would be unconstitutional if enacted, to communicate such concerns to Congress prior to passage;
  • urge the President to confine any signing statements to his views regarding the meaning, purpose, and significance of bills, and to use his veto power if he believes that all or part of a bill is unconstitutional;
  • urge Congress to enact legislation requiring the President promptly to submit to Congress an official copy of all signing statements, and to report to Congress the reasons and legal basis for any instance in which he claims the authority, or states the intention, to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress, and to make all such submissions be available in a publicly accessible database.
  • urge Congress to enact legislation enabling the President, Congress, or other entities or individuals, to seek judicial review of such signing statements to the extent constitutionally permissible, and urge Congress and the President to support a judicial resolution of the President's claim or interpretation.
34 pages.
   Legal Significance of Presidential Signing Statements - Memorandum for Bernard N. Nussbaum, Counsel to the President by Dellinger, Walter, Assistant Attorney General (November 3, 1993) (U.S. Department of Justice)
"This memorandum provides you with an analysis of the legal significance of Presidential signing statements. It is addressed to the questions that have been raised about the usefulness or validity of a such statements. We believe that such statements may on appropriate occasions perform useful and legally significant functions. These functions nclude (1) explaining to the public, and particularly to constituencies interested in the bill, what the President believes to be the likely effects of its adoption, (2) directing subordinate officers within the Executive Branch how to interpret or administer the enactment, and (3) informing Congress and the public that the Executive believes that a particular provision would be unconstitutional in certain of its applications, or that it is unconstitutional on its face, and that the provision will not be given effect by the Executive Branch to the extent that such enforcement would create an unconstitutional condition.

These functions must be carefully distinguished from a much more controversial -- and apparently recent -- use of Presidential signing statements, i.e., to create legislative history to which the courts are expected to give some weight when construing the enactment."

17 U.S. Op. Off. Legal Counsel 131, 1993 WL 778044.


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