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Archive for Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama pledges to limit signing statements

March 10, 2009

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— President Barack Obama promised Monday that he would rarely impose his own interpretation of legislation by attaching statements when he signs bills, pulling back significantly from the controversial use of the tactic by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

In a memorandum, Obama also ordered executive branch officials to consult with the attorney general before assuming that hundreds of Bush’s past official statements on legislation remain in force.

Presidents have used signing statements to make technical corrections in legislation or to guide government officials about how to enforce laws.

But the practice became controversial as Bush dramatically increased its use. Critics accused him of using the previously little-known tactic to subvert the intent of Congress, especially on issues of terrorism, torture and domestic surveillance. In one case, for example, Bush asserted in a signing statement that his administration was not bound by a law he signed prohibiting torture of U.S.-held detainees.

Longtime Bush critics, however, excoriated Obama for failing to put a complete end to the practice.

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