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Thursday, August 10, 2006 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Signing Statements But Were Afraid to Ask

Everyone is talking about presidential signing statements. Arlen Specter has his panties in a bunch about them, the ABA issued a disgusting hatchet job about them (which has been ripped by Walter Dellinger and Larry Tribe of all people), and we spent two days on them in my Legislation class last semester. Where can you turn for a reasonable examination of the issue without all of the eye-rolling partisan political hackery that craps all over the glorious study of law? Ed Whelan linked to this incredibly informative paper by law professors Eric Posner and Curtis Bradley about the topic in question. Here is the abstract...
A recent debate about the Bush administration's use of presidential signing statements has raised questions about their function, legality, and value. We argue that presidential signing statements are legal and that they provide a useful way for the president to disclose his views about the meaning and constitutionality of legislation. Although President Bush has challenged more statutory provisions in signing statements than prior administrations have, his signing statements are similar in many respects to the signing statements issued by prior presidents, such as President Clinton. In addition, basic tenets of positive political theory suggest that signing statements do not undermine the separation of powers or the legislative process and that, under certain circumstances, they can provide relevant evidence of statutory meaning.
Yes, I know that it's 43 pages long, but it's worth your time if you are interested in this issue. It's the best discussion of presidential signing statements that I have seen anywhere.

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