News Release

Specter Denounces Presidential Signing Statements


Sen. Arlen Specter this afternoon challenged the constitutionality of the president’s practice of adding signing statements to legislation.

Specter, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the practice “is inappropriate under the Constitution, which provides that when Congress passes legislation, the legislation is presented to the president and if the president doesn’t like the legislation, he vetoes it and if he likes the legislation, he passes it. But that he’s not able to pick and choose from among various positions which he wants to not follow.”

The senator went on to discuss how this practice has affected the PATRIOT Act and other legislation and to outline possible solutions.

Specter’s remarks were made at the National Press Club’s “Luncheon Speakers” event in response to a question submitted by Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy; video of the event is available at C-SPAN.

The following analysts are available for interviews:

A leading expert on bill-signing statements and the “unitary executive,” Kelley is author of a dissertation [PDF] on the unitary executive and the presidential signing statement and editor of the just-released book Executing the Constitution: Putting the President Back into the Constitution as well as numerous papers on the strategic importance of the signing statement.

Kelley said today: “President Bush has used a little more than 100 signing statements to make over 950 distinct challenges, by my count, to provisions of law, and I would assume when he finally gets the bill regarding the treatment of detainees, he will continue to add to the number of challenges.” Kelley is currently a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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Van Bergen has written several articles on the unitary executive doctrine, including “The Unitary Executive: Is the Doctrine Behind the Bush Presidency Consistent with a Democratic State?”
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Mark Fiore’s video cartoon on the unitary executive and presidential signing statements can be found here.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167