A task force of the American Bar Association has concluded that the president's unprecedented stream of signing statements poses a dangerous challenge to the constitutional checks and balances central to power in the United States. One of the signing statements reserves the right to torture detainees held in the war on terror.
The ABA report released today calls on Congress to exert more oversight and empower the courts to review presidential signing statements asserting the president's right to "ignore or not enforce laws." If unchecked, ABA President Michael Greco said in a prepared statement, the presidential use of signing statements "raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy."
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I watched the press conference in which the American Bar Association presented their report, recommendations and statements and answered questions. One reporter asked if it were not the responsibility of the Congress, rather than some group like the ABA, to defend the Constitutional perogatives of the Legislative branch. Members of the task force replied that we all as Americans have a stake in the balance of powers and the rule of law. They felt our democracy itself was at stake.
They said that because members of the Executive refuse to tell Congress what they are doing we do not know what the White House is telling members of the Executive Branch about the laws it has challenged in signing statements more than 800 times. For example the Congress and the American people do not know whether the White House is telling the military and the CIA that they must not torture after Congress passed and the president signed the McCain amendment which makes torture illegal or if the White House is telling them that the President has determined that torture is necessary to protect the nation as the President asserted he had the right to do in the signing statement he quietly issued after signing the McCain amendment to great fanfare.