Obama In ’08: We Are Not Going To Use Signing Statements

- January 3, 2013

In 2008, Obama Promised He Would Not Use Signing Statements "As A Way Of Doing An End Run Around Congress." QUESTION: "When Congress offers you a bill, do you promise not to use presidential signage to get your way?" OBAMA: "Yes. Let me just explain for those who are unfamiliar with this issue. You know, we've got a government designed by the founders so that there'd be checks and balances. You don't want a President who's too powerful or a Congress who's too powerful or courts that are too powerful. Everybody's got their own role. Congress' job is to pass legislation. The President can veto it, or he can sign it. But what George Bush has been trying to do is part of his effort to accumulate more power in the Presidency, is, he's been saying, "Well, I can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter sayin' 'I don't agree with this part' or 'I don't agree with that part.' I'm going to choose to interpret it this way or that way." Uh, that's not part of his power. But this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he's going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for ten years, I believe in the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress." (Sen. Barack Obama, Campaign Event At Billings West High School, Billings, MT, 5/19/08)

This Week, Obama Issued A Signing Statement Explaining His Decision To Approve The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Despite His Opposition To Several Provisions, Including One Effectively Prohibiting The Closure Of Guantanamo. "President Barack Obama signed a major defense bill Wednesday, notwithstanding public veto threats the White House issued with regard to earlier versions of the legislation. Obama issued a written 'signing statement' explaining his decision to approve the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act despite his objections to various aspects of the measure, including provisions that effectively thwart his efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects and give military members the right to refuse to take certain actions that violate their conscience." (Josh Gerstein, "Obama Signs Defense Bill, Notes Regrets," Politico's Under The Radar, 1/3/13)

  • Obama Has Used Signing Statements - The Same Tactic He Criticized Bush For Using - Numerous Times Since 2009. "Obama, a Democrat, has issued 29 signing statements since he entered the White House in 2009, versus 172 during the eight-year presidency of the Republican Bush, according to Kelley." (Susan Cornwell, "Like Bush, Obama Asserts Prerogatives When Signing Laws," Reuters, 1/6/12)

Liberal Groups Had Urged Obama To Veto The Bill "In Order Assert His Authority To Close Guantanamo." "In signing the bill, Obama turned aside pleas from a coalition of liberal groups that he veto the measure in order assert his authority to close Guantanamo and return much of the war on terror to the law enforcement sphere." (Josh Gerstein, "Obama Signs Defense Bill, Notes Regrets," Politico's Under The Radar, 1/3/13)

Obama In 2008: "I Want To Close Gitmo As Quickly As We Can Do It." CNN's WOLF BLITZER: "If you're elected president -- still a big 'if,' right now -- when would you shut down Gitmo, the Guantanamo naval base, or the detention center for suspected terrorists." OBAMA: "I want to close Gitmo as quickly as we can do it." BLITZER: "What does that mean? How quickly?" OBAMA: "As quickly as we can do prudently. And I am not going to give a time certain, because I think what we have to do is evaluate all those who are still being held at Gitmo. We have to put in place appropriate plans to make sure that they are tried, convicted and punished to the full extent of the law. And that's going to require, I think, a review of the existing cases, which I have not had the opportunity to do." (CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer," 11/2/08)

  • The White House Has Since Acknowledged That The Prison Could Stay Open Until 2013. "Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantánamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013." (Charlie Savage, "Closing Guantanamo Fades As A Priority," The New York Times, 6/25/10)

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