Freaking Out Squares

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Been Almost Two Months...

...and this isn't even a "real" post, although I'm sure it's much more worthwhile and substantive than anything I have to say. Read it and weep--I'll pick up later this week. Oh, and thanks to the Pirate for sending me this.

June 18, 2007
White House can’t ‘cherry pick the laws it likes and the laws it doesn’t’
Posted 2:05 pm | Printer Friendly | Spotlight

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We’ve known for a while that the president has a nasty habit of issuing “signing
statements,” through which Bush tells Congress which parts of certain laws he’s
decided to ignore. Senate Pro Tem Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and House Judiciary
Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) recently asked the non-partisan General
Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to look into how these
signing statements affect administration policy.

The GAO issued its report today.

Today, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report
which found that in a limited number of Presidential signing statements
examined, the Bush Administration failed to execute the law as instructed in
over 30 percent of the cases.

GAO researchers found signing statements in 11 of 12 appropriations acts in
fiscal year
2006 and examined a sample of 19 provisions with which the President
expressed concern in his signing statements. The President objected to, and
federal agencies failed to execute, public law in six of those cases - 30
percent of the total sample.

“The Administration is thumbing its nose at the law,” Conyers said. “This
study calls for an extensive review of these practices, something the
Administration has so far refused to do.”

Added Byrd, “The White House cannot pick and choose which laws it follows and
which it ignores. When a president signs a bill into law, the president signs
the entire bill. The Administration cannot be in the business of cherry picking
the laws it likes and the laws it doesn’t.”

It’s worth noting, as Paul Kiel emphasizes, that the GAO’s report said,
“Although we found the agencies did not execute the provisions as enacted, we
cannot conclude that agency noncompliance was the result of the President’s
signing statements.”

On this, the GAO is agnostic. In other words, we don’t know that the executive
branch failed to follow the law because of the signing statements; we only know
that the president issued a signing statement questioning certain provisions of
the law and then, lo and behold, the administration ignored those provisions.

And what kind of measures are we talking about?

Some of the most troubling instances that the GAO examined include:

- The Defense Department did not include separate budget justification
documents explaining how Iraq war funding was to be spent in its 2007 budget
request, as required by public law;

- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not submit a proposal
and expenditure plan for housing, as directed by Congress;

- Customs and Border patrol did not relocate its checkpoints in the Tucson
area every seven days, as directed by Congress.

The full report is online (.pdf).

Byrd concluded, “This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House
is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people’s branch of
government to the sidelines. Too often, the Bush Administration does what it
wants, no matter the law. It says what it wants, no matter the facts. We must
continue to demand accountability and openness from this White House to counter
this power grab.”

Sounds right to me.


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