Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Press Has Ignored Boston Globe Series on Presidential Signing Statements

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage broke, and has single-handedly been pursuing, the news that, since he took office in 2001, Pres. Bush has issued more than 750 "signing statements" to undo the effects of legislation Congress passed and he signed into law.

Dan Froomkin has a long and very substantive piece about the fact that the rest of the mainstream press has essentially ignored Savage's reports:

President Bush's unprecedented use of "signing statements" to quietly assert his right to ignore legislation passed by Congress -- including its ban on torture -- first came to light in January due to some aggressive reporting by Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage.

In April, Savage reported his astonishing discovery that Bush has claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws in all since he took office:

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files "signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register. . .

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

Since then, a few major news organizations have taken note of this amazing story -- then let it drop. Most haven't covered it at all. Up until this morning, not one reporter had asked the president, the vice president, or even the press secretary a single question about Bush's penchant for signing statements.

(According to Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press, the topic came up at this morning's White House press gaggle just before a Senate hearing on the topic was set to begin, and press secretary Tony Snow explained: "It's important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions.")

Savage has kept at the story, but this is not a job for a one-man band.

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