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Specter presses Bush administration on domestic spying, signing statements

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] has threatened to subpoena administration documents on its warrantless domestic spying program [JURIST news archive] if US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales does not respond to Specter's requests to answer questions on domestic spying and a host of other issues, including presidential signing statements and last month's FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's congressional office [JURIST news archive]. Specter said Thursday that he has not received an adequate response from the Justice Department on requests for Gonzales to appear before the committee, but a DOJ spokesperson said the department is working with Specter to set a date for Gonzales to appear before the committee. AP has more.

Specter also said Thursday that he wants to look into the Bush administration's use of signing statements [1993 US DOJ backgrounder] which are issued when a president signs new laws. Bush has used the signing statements to effectively declare any portion of legislation he signs invalid if it differs from his interpretation of presidential and executive powers under Article II [text] of the US constitution. Bush has attached such statements to 750 bills [Boston Globe report] since assuming office, most controversially when he reserved the right to bypass a ban on torture [JURIST report] when signing the 2006 defense spending bill. Bush has never vetoed a bill from Congress, so Congress has never had an opportunity to override an administration decision on what part of a law the administration will in fact follow. Critics of the procedure, including Specter and fellow committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] have said that Bush's signing statements impermissibly intrude upon Congress's power to write and enact laws under Article I [text], which says in part "[a]ll legislative powers herein granted shall be vested" to Congress. The American Bar Association earlier this month launched a bipartisan investigation into the legality of Bush's signing statements [JURIST report], which will report its findings in August. The Boston Globe has more.

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