After a long and arduous process Congress recently sent a renewed Patriot Act to (p)resident Bush who promptly signed it.
The consensus was anything but letting the whole stinking pile of legislation die a quiet death. The debate’s dynamic was such that cherished rights had to beg for a place at the carving table, only to get carved out again.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (D) voted against the bill. He didn’t think it contained enough controls to constrain a president who “claims that he need not fulfill his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws but can pick and choose among the laws he decides to recognize. Confronted with claims of inherent and unchecked powers, I concluded, the restraints we were able to include in this reauthorization of the Patriot Act were not sufficient.”
That means he didn’t think it would stop Bush from turning the American people into its own enemy. One big, fear-laden paranoia dump and waffle house.
Anyway, the point of this post is not the passage of the law, but what happened next. And that was the White House concocting another infamous “signing statement.” This is something they draw up on their own. An interpretation of the law as it applies to them.
Bush has made a practice of using these statements to release him from the responsibilities the people’s representatives have just imposed.
He did not disappoint this time either.
Here’s Leahy from the same March 15 press statement: “In the very act of signing the reauthorization bill into law, the [p]resident signaled that he intends to follow the law only insofar as it suits him, and to ignore its minimal requirements of public accountability.”
At issue are two sections of the law, 106A and 119. They require some appraisal of how sections of the law are working. Leahy’s afraid the administration not going to let Congress see what the audits said.
Bush’s signing statement also “brushed off [a section] which requires the Attorney General to submit to the Congress recommendations for further legislation, by saying that the administration will do so only when the [p]resident judges it ‘necessary and expedient’ to do so.”
For those of who don’t read much legislation day-in-and-out, that means “fuck you.”
Leahy’s writer is good, so we’re going to stick with him here: “[T]his [p]resident appears to hold a strange and novel view of the appropriate role of the [p]resident in the legislative process. The Constitution provides that legislation shall be presented by Congress to the [p]resident, who shall then either sign it into law or veto it.”
It must be upsetting to a Senator that he must engage in this primer on the American system, but we do it most every day at highwayscribery. The idea behind the American experiment has been lost.
Anyway, as men of his ilk are given to doing, Leahy blusters that this must not stand!
“The [p]resident’s signing statements are not the law. We in Congress have a constitutional duty to prevent this. The [p]resident’s signing statements are not the law, and we should not allow them to be the last word. The [p]resident’s constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by Congress. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so.”
In case you missed it, he said, “The [p]resident’s statements are not the law.”
Where can we 50 more guys/gals like that?