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One Issue Where McCain Beats Obama

Ok Republicans, I’ll do your stinking work for you.

Never, never, never, never.  Now you kids get outta my yard!
Never, never, never, never. Now you kids get outta my yard!

I’ve read lots of irrational reasons to vote for McCain. I’ve read rational and irrational arguments to vote against Obama. However, here at the Legal Satyricon, we are not values voters, we’re not pocketbook voters, we’re Constitution voters. (Any Satyriconistas who wish to dissent will likely do so in the comments).

If you are looking for one issue on which McCain has the upper hand, (aside from bigoted fear-mongering), here it is.

Disclaimer — if you’ve been a fan of George W. Bush, you have no right to use this in an argument. You can only use this if you are a real Conservative. Of course, then, you’re probably going to vote Obama anyhow – here’s why – but let’s play anyhow.

Many presidents have used “signing statements” as a sort of line-item-veto. The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 was an attempt by Congress to give the President more power over earmarks and pork barrel spending by allowing him to unilaterally strike out parts of laws that Congress had duly passed. That act was ruled unconstitutional in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998). The Supreme Court held that the Line Item Veto Act violated the Presentment Clause, See U.S. Const. Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

A tool that resembles the Line Item Veto is the “signing statement.” A signing statement is a statement that the President will issue, along with his signature, when enacting a duly passed piece of legislation. The practice originated with James Monroe, but they were usually nothing more than a proclamation by the President. From James Monroe to Jimmy Carter, there were only 75 signing statements issued.

Then came Reagan. Reagan started ramping up his signing statements after “Attorney General Edwin Meese decided that signing statements could be used to increase the power of the president. (source)”

President Reagan issued 250 signing statements, 86 of which (34%) contained provisions objecting to one or more of the statutory provisions signed into law. President George H. W. Bush continued this practice, issuing 228 signing statements, 107 of which (47%) raised objections. President Clinton’s conception of presidential power proved to be largely consonant with that of the preceding two administrations. In turn, President Clinton made aggressive use of the signing statement, issuing 381 statements, 70 of which (18%) raised constitutional or legal objections. President George W. Bush has continued this practice, issuing 152 signing statements, 118 of which (78%) contain some type of challenge or objection. (source)

The signing statement became truly constitutionally dangerous when wielded by the Dipshit-in-Chief. Bush granted himself the authority to ignore laws that he did not like, including bills that required oversight over operations in Iraq and a prohibition on the establishment of permanent military bases there. The American Bar Association has condemned signing statements as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” (source at 2).

The use of Presidential signing statements in the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush mold is a frightening expansion of the power of the executive and must be stopped.

Obama has, unfortunately, said that he will continue to use them.

“The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation,” Obama answered. But, he added: “No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president’s constitutional prerogatives.” (source)

McCain, in stark contrast, emphatically said “Never, never, never, never. If I disagree with a law that passed, I’ll veto it.” (source)

Score one for McCain

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