- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday issued his first signing statement arguing he won’t be bound by some of the provisions of the $410 billion catch-all spending bill, just two days after he promised to cut down on such statements.

Though on Monday he criticized President George W. Bush‘s use of statements, he left the door open to issuing them when he deemed it necessary. And in his first statement Mr. Obama said the spending bill Congress passed this week infringed on his powers as president in five different areas.

“It is a legitimate constitutional function, and one that promotes the value of transparency, to indicate when a bill that is presented for presidential signature includes provisions that are subject to well-founded constitutional objections,” Mr. Obama said in listing the parts of the bill he said his administration will choose to ignore or treat as non-binding.

In language very similar to what Mr. Bush used in his signing statements, Mr. Obama said the spending bill restricted his authority to negotiate international affairs, interfered with his ability to pick military commanders and tried to exert too much control over communications between his staff and Congress.

Mr. Obama on Monday directed his administration to disregard every previous signing statement until they had confirmed with his Justice Department that the instructions were still operable.

He blamed Mr. Bush for using signing statements to try to carve out provisions he disagreed with, but had no constitutional reason to argue against.

The American Bar Association had called this week for Mr. Obama to reject all signing statements, saying their use is not envisioned by the Constitution.

“Future signing statements by President Obama or any other president must not skirt the only constitutional remedies available to the President regarding bills: sign or veto,” said H. Thomas Wells Jr., president of the ABA.

Though Mr. Bush took heat for his statements, President Bill Clinton actually issued more signing statements, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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