1986 July 7

Presidential Power Asserted: The Rise of Signing Statements


On this day, President Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese succeeded in elevating the status of presidential signing statements by persuading the law publisher West Publishing to include them in the legislative history of acts of Congress. This maneuver was part of a conservative strategy to undermine legislation passed by Congress, which at this time was dominated by Democrats. The strategy was to have presidential doubts and reservations placed in the official record.

President George W. Bush (2001–2009) made systematic use of signing statements, in which he stated that he would enforce certain provisions of laws in accordance with his authority as Commander in Chief — which was to say that he would not enforce those provisions. His heavy use of signing statements was exposed by reporter Charlie Savage in the Boston Globe on April 30, 2006. The story provoked a national controversy over President Bush’s abuse of power.

Read the path-breaking book by Charlie Savage: Charlie Savage, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (2007)

Read the American Bar Association Statement on Signing Statements: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/leadership/2006/annual/dailyjournal/20060823144113.authcheckdam.pdf

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!