When the president of the United States signs a bill into law, it’s expected that he will abide by it. That’s not the case with President Obama, who has a sudden interest in novel legalistic interpretations getting him off the hook from laws he doesn’t like.
On Friday, the president signed the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds the government for the remaining nine months of the fiscal year. Afterward, he released a statement saying he won’t abide by the law because the Justice Department had advised that certain provisions are “subject to well-founded constitutional objections.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith told The Washington Times, “This president used to condemn the type of signing statements he is now embracing to ignore the will of Congress and the American people.”
One of the presidential pet peeves is that Capitol Hill put the kibosh on his czars. Those high-level White House appointments aren’t confirmed by the Senate but are central to implementing Mr. Obama’s liberal agenda. Lawmakers specifically blocked funding for salaries and offices for four of his nine czars: health care (who coordinates Obamacare), automobile industry (“car czar”), urban affairs and climate change.
The president protested that defunding those positions “could prevent me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibilities, by denying me the assistance of senior advisers and by obstructing my supervision of executive branch officials.” Thus, he’s going to interpret the law as he sees fit.
The commander in chief is opposed to new restrictions on foreign relations and national security, especially a new requirement that the defense secretary notify congressional appropriations committees in advance of military exercises that cost more than $100,000 for construction.
Also at issue is a restriction on funding United Nations peacekeeping missions that put U.S. armed forces under the command or operational control of foreign nationals. Mr. Obama said he’s only going to apply those provisions he deems constitutional. The same flexibility with the law apparently will be enjoyed in relation to 14 separate provisions that limit foreign aid to certain governments.
The president protested that “once again” he has been stopped from transferring terrorist detainees from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, onto the U.S. mainland. He claimed this law could “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.” He vowed to interpret it to keep executive powers supreme and work to repeal the ban on bringing these dangerous outlaws stateside.
On top of all this, Mr. Obama took umbrage at unnamed but “numerous” omnibus provisions that limit the executive branch from spending money without the approval of congressional committees. He wrote, “These are constitutionally impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement in the execution of the laws.” The chief executive warned that his administration will notify the relevant committees in advance and listen to their recommendations, but “our spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees.”
The American system of government is based on a separation of powers, not presidential fiat. Mr. Obama should abide by every word of the 1,200-page bill passed by Congress and signed by his own hand.