My own private vetoes

Back in April, the Boston Globe had a huge story about the 750 laws enacted since Bush took office that he claimed the right to ignore or break based on executive privilege or signing statements, "official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law."

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and inveterate party hack Arlen Specter promised to hold hearings on the signing statements at the time, but, after he dragged his feet, earlier this month, the American Bar Association's board of governors unanimously voted to proceed with an investigation, led by a bipartisan "all-star legal panel," which would seek to determine whether Bush's signing statements violate Constitutional law.

Now Specter has demanded an investigation, at which a representative of the Bush administration is scheduled to testify today.

Specter's hearing is about more than the statements. He's been compiling a list of White House practices he bluntly says could amount to abuse of executive power -- from warrantless domestic wiretapping program to sending officials to hearings who refuse to answer lawmakers' questions.

Specter and his allies maintain that Bush is doing an end-run around the veto process. In his presidency's sixth year, Bush has yet to issue a single veto that could be overridden with a two-thirds majority in each house.

Instead, he has issued hundreds of signing statements invoking his right to interpret or ignore laws on everything from whistleblower protections to how Congress oversees the Patriot Act.
Specter says he is "interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick," but also notes he isn't sure what Congress can do to limit the practice, saying, "We may figure out a way to tie it to the confirmation process or budgetary matters."

Shayera, who gets the hat tip, suggests that perhaps Congress would do well to remember that they're meant to be an equal branch of government. "If they really were interested in doing anything, they have subpoena power. It's too bad they've been so busy abrogating their power."

Indeed. Gee, if only there were something Congress could do to get rid of a wantonly law-breaking president. Sigh.

(Crossposted at AlterNet PEEK.)

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