The American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed.
In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.
These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.
In signing a statutory ban on torture and other national security laws, Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.
The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”
If the president deems a bill unconstitutional, he can veto it, the panel said, but “signing statements should not be a substitute for a presidential veto.”