From the New York Times:
Lawmakers say they plan to dig deeper into the Bush administration’s use of bill-signing statements as ways to circumvent Congressional intent.
In a limited examination of the administration’s practice of reserving the authority to interpret legislation, the Government Accountability Office determined that in 6 out of 19 cases it studied, the administration did not follow the law as written after President Bush expressed reservations about some legislative directives. By using signing statements, the president has reserved the right not to enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations.
The accountability office, a watchdog agency, in a report issued Monday, did not pass judgment on whether the agencies were responding to the signing statements or whether the president had the constitutional authority not to comply. But Congressional officials said Tuesday that the findings were alarming since the administration had apparently not complied with the law in 30 percent of the cases scrutinized.
“Federal law is not some buffet line where the president can pick parts of some laws to follow and others to reject,” said Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, one of two senior lawmakers who sought the review.
Mr. Byrd and aides to Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and joined in seeking the study, said their next step would be to explore the signing statements to determine the broad extent of their impact. Mr. Byrd noted that another agency, the Congressional Research Service, had identified 700 provisions in law questioned by the administration.
“Moving forward, I plan to ask auditors to take a look at these provisions and determine what legal violations they find,” Mr. Byrd said. “Once we have the facts, we will be able to determine the next steps.”
The Bush administration’s frequent use of signing statements has been one front in the battle between the White House and some in Congress over the power of the executive branch.
Administration officials said that it was fully within the president’s power to interpret how laws should be carried out by the executive branch and that the White House had acted appropriately to keep Congress from overreaching and meddling too much in the independent executive branch of government.
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