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   Bush using a little-noticed strategy to alter the balance of power

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1/6/2006 3:00 pm

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Entered 1/9/2006, Updated 1/9/2006

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President Bush agreed with great fanfare last month to accept a ban on torture, but he later quietly reserved the right to ignore it, even as he signed it into law. Acting from the seclusion of his Texas ranch at the start of New Year's weekend, Bush said he would interpret the new law in keeping with his expansive view of presidential power. He did it by issuing a bill-signing statement - a little-noticed device that has become a favorite tool of presidential power in the Bush White House. In fact, Bush has used signing statements to reject, revise or put his spin on more than 500 legislative provisions. Experts say he has been far more aggressive than any previous president in using the statements to claim sweeping executive power - and not just on national security issues. "It's nothing short of breath-taking," said Phillip Cooper, a professor of public administration at Portland State University. "In every case, the White House has interpreted presidential authority as broadly as possible, interpreted legislative authority as narrowly as possible, and pre-empted the judiciary." In 2003, lawmakers tried to get a handle on Bush's use of signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill that required the department to inform Congress whenever the administration decided to ignore a legislative provision on constitutional grounds. Bush signed the bill, but issued a statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.


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