Presidential signing statements | US government and civics | Khan Academy

Presidential signing statements | US government and civics | Khan Academy


– [Narrator] What we’re going to do in this video is talk about
presidential signing statements. And these are statements
that presidents issue when they are signing a bill into law. They don’t always do this. In fact, it was quite infrequent for a very long time. The first signing statement
was issued by James Monroe. But it was quite infrequent until we get to the modern times. And starting with Ronald
Reagan, they become much, much more common for
presidents of both parties. And even though it is not considered by legal scholars to be legally binding. So, not legally binding,
presidents still do it. And they have multiple reasons. Sometimes, it acts as
a bit of an explainer for why they are signing the law. They might say how great the law is, why they think it’s a good idea. But sometimes, they also
say what problems there are in the law. And in an extreme case,
they can sometimes say that there are parts of the
law that are unconstitutional. And those parts that are unconstitutional, the Executive Branch
might not follow exactly the way the law states. Well an obvious question is,
if it’s not legally binding, why does the President
even take the trouble? Well, the explainer purpose might be political, or it
might rally up the base. But issuing a statement on the problems, it’s the President’s way of signaling to the entire Executive
Branch and to Congress that hey, look, don’t be
surprised when I don’t follow the letter of the law of the parts that I think are unconstitutional. And to make this tangible, let’s look at some actual signing statements. This is a signing statement by President George W. Bush in 2006. Today, I have signed into law H.R. 972, the Trafficking Victims
Reauthorization Act of 2005. This act enhances our
ability to combat trafficking in persons by extending
and improving prosecutorial and diplomatic tools, and also adds new protections for victims. So that part’s kind of an explainer. But then it goes on to
say, Section 104 purports to require the Secretary of State, prior to voting for a new
or reauthorized peacekeeping mission under the auspices of
a multilateral organization to submit to the Congress
a specific report. The Executive Branch shall construe this reporting requirement
in a manner consistent with the President’s
Constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and the
President’s constitutional authority to conduct the
Nation’s foreign affairs. And so what they’re saying is, hey, hold on a second here, Congress. You want our Secretary
of State, before making this decision, to submit
a report every time? You’re kind of starting to muck with how the Executive Branch executes there. So this is signaling a bit to the Congress as, hey, don’t be surprised
if we don’t follow this exactly the way that you are expecting. You have a similar tone
in an executive order from President Obama in 2009. Today, I have signed into law H.R. 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009. This bill completes the work of last year by providing the funding necessary for the smooth operation
of our Nation’s Government. So once again, a bit of an explainer. But then it goes on to say,
the Department of Justice has advised that a small number of provisions of the bill
raise constitutional concerns. And then it goes on to list
actually several bullet points, and I’m just going to give you one of them, just so you
get a sense of things. Legislative aggrandizements, committee approval requirements. So, when you aggrandize yourself, it’s making yourself
more than you really are. And so a legislative aggrandizement is the legislative branch trying to go beyond their legislative powers. Numerous provisions of the legislation purport to condition the authority of officers to spend or reallocate funds on the approval of
congressional committees. These are impermissible forms of legislative aggrandizement
in the execution of the laws other than
by enactment of statutes. Therefore, although my administration will notify the relevant
committees before taking the specified actions and will accord the recommendations of such committees all appropriate and serious consideration, spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval
of congressional committees. So, here in this signing statement, President Obama’s saying, look, this is overstepping the
bounds of legislative authority to tell us how we will spend these things. We’ll take your advice
under consideration, but dictating how to execute is not the job of the Legislative Branch. So I’ll leave you there. I encourage you to look up more presidential signing statements. They’re readily available on the internet. They’re part of the Federal Registry. And think about why presidents do this. And, what role does this have? And why this is considered an informal power of the President.

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