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Peter M. Shane Headshot

President Obama's Signing Statements and Congress's Response: A Return to Separation of Powers Sanity?

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An intriguing debate continues whether President Obama's use of signing statements to protest provisions of statutes he is signing into law is either consistent with his promise of restraint in issuing signing statements or vindication of George W. Bush's unprecedented volume of such presidential prose.

Having parsed the nine objections President Obama has so far lodged in the course of five such statements of protest, I believe only two of his objections -- both made in his first protest signing statement -- are arguably outside his standard of restraint. Moreover, Congress -- in an entirely healthy development -- is showing signs of pushing back against signing statements, which suggests we may again be seeing some balance restored to the world of checks and balances. The pace of Obama statements so far portends a record closer to that of the Reagan or Clinton Administrations than Bush 43. I think this is still too much, but -- if coupled with congressional pushback -- does suggest a much healthier checks and balances environment could emerge.

For readers who can wade through 1600 words of explication of these theses, I have laid out my detailed analysis here.