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Obama Issues First Signing Statement

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While President Obama has often criticized his predecessor’s frequent use of signing statements meant to alter the effect of new laws, our new president didn’t take long to issue a signing statement of his own, tacking one onto the spending bill he signed today.

[In the signing statement,] he objected to provisions of the bill that he said the Justice Department had advised “raise constitutional concerns.” Among them are provisions that Obama said would “unduly interfere” with his authority in the foreign affairs arena by directing him how to proceed, or not to, in negotiations and discussions with international organizations and foreign governments.

Another provision, Obama said, would limit his discretion to choose who performs specific functions in military missions.

Many Presidents have used signing statements in lieu of an all-out veto, presumably because vetoes come with a political price and, in the case of omnibus bills, would throw out the good with the bad. Nevertheless, this signing statement is yet more proof that Obama has yet to get the reins on Congress. Not only did the president feel as if he couldn’t take a stand on earmarks, he apparently lacked the clout to keep congress from meddling in executive powers pertaining to foreign affairs and military operations.

I won’t be so silly as to ask what foreign affairs provisions were doing in a spending bill (those things are a nasty stew), but I don’t think it would have been too much for the president to ask congressional leaders of his own party to eliminate the provisions before sending the bill his way. A signing statement hardly fulfills Obama’s desire to lead a government where the branches work better together. Let’s hope Obama doesn’t feel the need to make a habit out of signing statements.