Lawyers condemn Bush's bill exceptions
The American Bar Association yesterday approved a resolution condemning President Bush's practice of writing exceptions to laws he's just signed.
Delegates at the ABA's annual meeting being held in Honolulu voted 272-99 to reject an effort to postpone consideration and then approved the resolution on a voice vote.
The lawyers condemned the practice of attaching presidential statements to bills as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers."
The resolution was directed at a misuse of presidential bill attachments to "disregard or decline to enforce" all or parts of laws.
The president must accept bills in their entirety or veto them, according to the resolution adopted by delegates representing 410,000 lawyers and other ABA members.
Bush has vetoed only one bill, on stem cell research, but written exceptions to some 800 bills -- more than all previous presidents combined.
In the Bush bill signing statements, he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.
"The Constitution says the president has two choices: either sign the bill or veto it. And if you sign it, you can't have your hand behind your back with your fingers crossed," said Michael Greco, ABA outgoing president, after the vote.
The bar delegates urged Congress to require the president to promptly submit copies of any signing statements, along with a report giving the legal basis for his objections.
The resolution also proposes that Congress create a system allowing courts to review any claim by the president that he has the authority to disregard or decline to enforce a law he signs or interpret the law in a different way than Congress had intended.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., submitted a bill late last month seeking to ensure that signing statements aren't used to rewrite legislation or exercise veto parts of bills.