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Not taking the ABA seriously

The Washington Post editorial page has a sensible discussion of presidential signing statements, an issue I wrote about yesterday. Giving it the weight it deserves, the Post has little to say directly about the ABA’s report on this issue, which concluded that President Bush’s use of signing statements usurps legislative powers. But the Post makes clear its disagreement with that position, noting for example, that presidential signing statements “have no legal consequences over and above the president’s powers to instruct the executive branch as to how to interpret a law — which he could do privately in any case.”

SCOTT adds: Unversity of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Kenneth Mayer writes from Australian National University in Canberra, where he holds the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Political Science until January 2007:

With respect to signing statements, there’s one aspect that hasn’t been covered. One advantage to the signing statement is that it puts the president’s position on record — so that everybody knows what he has done. There is, therefore, direct accountability. Given the nature of executive discretion in implementing laws, it’s almost certain that a president who believes a provision to be unconstitutional will find a way to not implement it in any event, perhaps quietly. Isn’t it preferable to have all of this up front, rather than buried within the bureaucratic process?

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