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American Bar Association President: ’Obama Ignoring Constitution’

24 January 2012

In a Washington Times column Monday, "Obama Ignoring the Constitution," ABA President William T. Robinson III focuses on Obama’s flagrant use of signing statements.

"His use of a signing statement to ignore the clear intent of Congress runs counter to the constitutional obligation he has to ’take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ That is not to say that Mr. Obama is obligated to accede to every whim of Congress. Rather, this President—like every other President who objects to language in legislation enrolled by Congress—should exercise the wholly constitutional authority he has to veto a bill....

"Article I of the Constitution unequivocally reserves to Congress alone the power to make law. Where a signing statement is used to nullify a component of a law, the President is in each instance unilaterally usurping the exclusive power of the legislative branch by denying Congress the opportunity to override a veto of that law and may be abrogating the power of the judicial branch to make a determination of constitutionality.

"Clearly, the original intent of the framers of the Constitution was to give the President the choice of signing or vetoing a bill passed by Congress—in its entirety. In many ways, a signing statement resembles and is effectively a ’line-item veto,’ which the Supreme Court definitively ruled to be unconstitutional in 1998. Writing in concurrence with the decision in that case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy warned that ’increasing the power of the President beyond what the Framers envisioned ... compromises the political liberty of our citizens, liberty which the separation of powers seeks to secure.’ Signing statements simply constitute an improper consolidation of too many powers of state in the hands of a single individual.

"The wisdom of Justice Kennedy’s words in 1998 continue to echo today with the same power and persuasiveness," he concludes.