Presidential Signing Statements: Constitutional and Institutional Implications
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Presidential signing statements are official pronouncements issued by the President contemporaneously to the signing of a bill into law that, in addition to commenting on the law generally, have been used to forward the Presidents interpretation of the statutory language to assert constitutional objections to the provisions contained therein and, concordantly, to announce that the provisions of the law will be administered in a manner that comports with the Administrations conception of the Presidents constitutional prerogatives. While the history of presidential issuance of signing statements dates to the early 1 9 century, the practice has become the source of significant controversy in the modern era as Presidents have increasingly employed the statements to assert constitutional objections to congressional enactments. President Reagan initiated this practice in earnest, transforming the signing statement into a mechanism for the assertion of presidential authority and intent. President Reagan issued 276 signing statements, 71 of which 26 contained provisions questioning the constitutionality of one or more of the statutory provisions signed into law. President George H. W. Bush continued this practice, issuing 214 signing statements, 146 of which 68 raised constitutional objections. President Clintons conception of presidential power proved to be largely consonant with that of the preceding two administrations. In turn, President Clinton made aggressive use of the signing statement, issuing 391 statements, 105 of which 27 raised constitutional concerns or objections. President George W. Bush has continued this practice, issuing 149 signing statements, 127 of which 85 contain some type of constitutional challenge or objection.
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