Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Congress could use new GAO report to take legal action against Bush

By Diane Silver

You have to get through the entire Washington Post story to get to the point, but it's there and it's clear: George W. Bush is using signing statements to set himself up above the law, and that has legal consequences for Bush and the nation.

In the second to the last paragraph of the story, The Post reports that at least one legal expert believes a just-released General Accounting Office report provides the evidence Congress needs to "take collective legal action against the White House."

The Post reports:
(T)he GAO's findings are legally significant, said Bruce Fein, a conservative constitutional lawyer who served on an American Bar Association task force that excoriated the president's use of signing statements in a report last year. White House officials have dismissed such concerns as overblown, suggesting that the statements were staking out legal positions, not broadcasting the administration's intentions.

But the GAO report suggests that the dispute over signing statements is not an academic one, Fein said, adding that Congress could use the report to take collective legal action against the White House.

"At least it makes clear the signing statements aren't solely for staking out a legal position, with the president just saying, 'I don't have to do these things, but I will,' " Fein said. "In fact they are not doing some of these things. You can't just vaporize it as an academic question."

Alternet has a good explanation of the signing statements controversy and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's role in providing legal cover for Bush.

Personally, I've never been able to understand how Bush or any president can justify ignoring Congress. The president has the power to veto, but this president ignores that Constitutional remedy for any disagreement with Congress and simply declares himself above the law.

If Bush and company are allowed to get away with ignoring the law, the Constitution will be weakened, and we will be paying the price far into the future.

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