Friday, May 05, 2006

A veto without a veto

Today, a New York Times editorial, commenting on the recent Boston Globe article which reveals that the President has issued 750 signing statements which express his intention to violate laws when he sees fit to do so, writes

One of the abiding curiosities of the Bush administration is that after more than five years in office, the president has yet to issue a veto. No one since Thomas Jefferson has stayed in the White House this long without rejecting a single act of Congress. Some people attribute this to the Republicans' control of the House and the Senate, and others to Mr. Bush's reluctance to expend political capital on anything but tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. Now, thanks to a recent article in The Boston Globe, we have a better answer.

President Bush doesn't bother with vetoes; he simply declares his intention not to enforce anything he dislikes. Charlie Savage at The Globe reported recently that Mr. Bush had issued more than 750 "presidential signing statements" declaring he wouldn't do what the laws required. Perhaps the most infamous was the one in which he stated that he did not really feel bound by the Congressional ban on the torture of prisoners.

In this area, as in so many others, Mr. Bush has decided not to take the open, forthright constitutional path. He signed some of the laws in question with great fanfare, then quietly registered his intention to ignore them. He placed his imperial vision of the presidency over the will of America's elected lawmakers.
This is another means by which the President subverts the democratic process. If he feels a law places upon him an unacceptable restraint, he is obligated to veto the law and send it back to Congress, who then must decide to amend and resubmit, or overrule the President's veto. But instead of taking that route, the President signs the law and then declares his intent not to follow it, in essence, vetoing the law without vetoing it, and without running the risk of having the elected representatives of the American public over rule his decision.

At the Atheist Ethicist, Alonzo notes that the Bush administration has also acted to side step (and thus over step) the judicial branch of gov't as well. Recall, for example, the Bush administration efforts to avoid having Jose Padilla's fate decided by the Supreme Court.

Rather than argue the case on the merits, the Bush administration had undertaken an array of procedural maneuvers that appear to have been calculated to avoid Supreme Court review of the case. Many legal analysts were watching closely to see if the high court would permit the government to benefit from such tactics.
If Congress will not act to restore the system of checks and balances that are meant to prevent a dangerous aggregation of power within government, then it is imperative that the American public vote into office a Congress that will. And it is important that we, as citizens, inform our representatives that this is a matter that we can not compromise on. Either they defend the Constitution, or lose our vote in the next election.

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