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Leahy: Bush is abusing power of the presidency

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is calling Pres. George Bush’s use of so-called signing statements “an arrogance of power” designed to pick and choose which laws passed by Congress the administration will follow.

Leahy made the comments in response to an article in the April 30 edition of the Boston Globe. In its report, the newspaper detailed the scope of Bush's assertions that he can ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

The paper reported that Bush, who has not vetoed a bill, has quietly appended ''signing statements" to more than one out of every 10 bills, or roughly 750 pieces of legislation he has signed, laying out his legal interpretation for government officials to follow when implementing the new laws. Those bills range from regulating the military and spy agencies, waiving a torture ban, providing oversight of the PATRIOT Act, and limiting domestic wiretapping, the newspaper reported.

The paper launched its probe after Leahy found Bush had issued a signing statement upon renewing the PATRIOT Act. When he signed the legislation, Bush issued a signing statement saying that some provisions, which provide oversight of domestic wiretapping, did not need to be enforced by his administration.

Leahy, who condemned that move, renewed his concerns this week.

“The Bush-Cheney Administration has cultivated an insidious brand of unilateralism that regularly crosses into an arrogance of power,” Leahy said. “The scope of the Administration's assertions of power is stunning, and it is chilling.”

Leahy also laid blame at the feet of the Republican-led Congress for not calling this practice into question.

“Just as disturbing as the president's use of press releases to announce which laws he will follow is the abject failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to act as a check against this executive power grab,” Leahy said. “I will continue to blow the whistle on the president's use of these bill signing statements to pick and choose which laws he deems appropriate to follow, and so will others. But until Republican leaders let Congress fulfill its oversight role, this White House will have no incentive to stop this abuse of power."

Posted May 3, 2006

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