How a bill becomes a law (Unitary Executive remix)

That old Schoolhouse Rock song doesn’t quite capture the legislative process of the Twenty-First Century.

Bush generally doesn’t bother vetoing bills he doesn’t like. Instead, he attaches “signing statements” that, in the most extreme cases, announce his refusal to follow the very law he’s just signed.

Signing statements don’t have the force of law, but they can influence judicial interpretations of a statute. They also send a powerful signal to executive branch agencies on how the White House wants them to implement new federal laws.

In some cases, Bush bluntly informs Congress that he has no intention of carrying out provisions that he considers an unconstitutional encroachment on his authority.

“They don’t like some of the things Congress has done so they assert the power to ignore it,” said Martin Lederman, a visiting professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. “The categorical nature of their opposition is unprecedented and alarming.”

While other presidents have on relied signing statements too, Digby notes that “Bush has made a fetish out of them,” issuing more than 500, often while “specifically citing the Presidential Infallibility Doctrine (aka the ‘Unitary Executive Theory’).” Also, former presidents, unlike Bush, “were almost always working with a congressional majority of the other party…. [Y]ou have to ask yourself why [Bush] can’t get laws passed exactly the way he wants them … in his rubber stamp congress.”


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