[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] announced plans Monday to introduce legislation that will give Congress the power to file court challenges against presidential bill signing statements [1993 DOJ backgrounder] in order to have the signing statement declared unconstitutional. Specter's comments came on the same day that an American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine [ABA materials] released a report [PDF text; JURIST report] concluding [press release] that President Bush's practice of attaching signing statements to new laws "undermine[s] the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." The report also includes several recommendations to curb Bush's unusually high number of signing statements, which outnumber all other presidents combined, such as urging the president to veto a bill rather than issue a signing statement and legislation similar to that which Specter plans to propose.
White House spokesman Tony Snow defended Bush's use of signing statements [press briefing transcript], saying Bush writes in small questions about constitutionality and never states that the Administration will not enact the law. Specter, who has led the signing statements challenge [JURIST report], began his campaign against signing statements after President Bush challenged provisions of Specter's USA Patriot Act renewal legislation [Boston Globe report; JURIST report] and legislation banning the use of torture on detainees [JURIST report]. AP has more.