Thursday, May 04, 2006

When will Congress wake up?

Arlen Specter is a busy man these days. The Boston Globe reports that he'll be holding hearings in June to look into the president's nasty habit of using "signing statements" to nullify laws passed by Congress that he doesn't like. Angus Reid Consultants says of these signing statements, "While the constitution of the United States clearly intends for the president to be an important actor in the legislative process, it is a matter of some discourse whether it permits such unchecked presidential caveats on legislation...The power to nullify selective clauses in legislation, known as a line-item veto, is not constitutionally available to the president." It is to this one, apparently.

The Globe reported on Sunday that W. has bypassed 750 statutes with signing statements, thereby effectively saying he doesn't feel like he has to obey them. These include John McCain's torture law that said we don't torture (W. begs to differ) and the Patriot Act.

"There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here. What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?" Specter asks.

See the problem here is that Congress is the legislative branch and their constitutional role is to make the laws that the executive then executes. If the executive decides he doesn't need Congress anymore, that he can just legislate by executive order; which pretty much does away with our entire system of governemnt.

Russ Feingold asked FBI director Robert Mueller yesterday at a Judiciary Committee hearing, "How can we know whether the government will comply with the new laws that we passed?...How can we have any assurance that you or your agents have not received a secret directive from above requiring you to violate laws that we all think apply today?" Good question.

Mueller replied not very reassuringly, "I can assure with you with regard to the FBI that our actions would be taken according to appropriate legal authorities." But in this case, the president says he's the legal authority as the "unitary leader" and commander-in-chief.

Specter warns that,"We're undergoing a tsunami here with the flood coming from the executive branch on one side and the judicial branch on the other. There may as well soon not be a Congress. . . . And I think that most members don't understand what's happening."


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