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ABA condemns Bush 'misuse' of signing statements

[JURIST] The American Bar Association [official website] approved a resolution [press release] Tuesday condemning President Bush for his "misuse" of bill signing statements [1993 DOJ backgrounder] to bypass particular provisions of a bill that the president considers unconstitutional or a risk to national security. Last month, an ABA task force released a report [PDF text; JURIST report] with recommendations on signing statements, saying in an accompanying press release [text] 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 ABA resolution "urges Congress to enact legislation requiring the President promptly to submit to Congress an official copy of all signing statements" that are issued. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] introduced legislation [S 3731 summary; JURIST report] in July that would give Congress the power to bring lawsuits in federal court [JURIST report] to challenge presidential bill signing statements that seem unconstitutional. According to the ABA Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine [ABA materials], Bush has attached signing statements to more than 800 bills during his tenure, more than all other presidents combined. Bush's veto of the stem cell research bill [JURIST report] last month marked the first veto of his presidency. White House spokesman Tony Snow has 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. AP has more.

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