What Obama did was actually worse than a veto because, if Obama vetoed a bill, then Congress could try to override the veto by voting a second time. Instead, Obama vetoed the bill by signing it into law, and then adding a statement that it wasn’t really a law. Once again, Obama is acting as if he is the Legislature.
According to the Washington Times,
President Obama on Friday signed a law allowing him to deny entry to the U.S. for Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations — but even as he did so, Mr. Obama said he considers it “advisory” and not binding.
The president, who took office saying he would curtail use of signing statements to reinterpret laws, issued just such a statement on this latest law, which Congress hastily passed to target Hamid Aboutalebi, who the U.S. says was involved in the 1979 hostage crisis.
“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our nation,” Mr. Obama said.
But he said presidents also have a duty to defend their constitutional turf — in this case, the right to decide who is accepted as an ambassador.
Mr. Obama said President George H.W. Bush issued similar objections in 1990 when a similar law was first passed, and “I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”
I think Obama’s constitutional point is probably right. But that’s all the more reason that he should have simply vetoed the law. If he and Congress want to come to an understanding, then Congress should have drafted a memo to send to the President rather than pass a law that they knew would not really be treated like a law.
One can offer an excuse for President Obama in this case. He is only doing what George W. Bush did before him. Bush used signing statements more often than any president before him. But that excuse doesn’t make sense because of how Obama campaigned against Bush’s legacy.
Mr. Obama, during the 2008 presidential campaign, seemed to say he was going to discontinue the practice.
“We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress,” he said at one event.
But now that Obama is President, he is not about to give up the power.