President Barack Obama’s use of signing statements—a presidential authorization to ignore portions of Congressional law—is being criticized by scholars who study gay rights for directly contradicting his defense of ongoing gay troop discharges. The President has refused to intervene to stop the firing of gay troops, citing the rationale that the White House should not be “simply ignoring a Congressional law.” Last month the President told Anderson Cooper of CNN that “it’s not appropriate for the executive branch simply to say, ‘we will not enforce a law.’”
But yesterday’s New York Times reports that the President has used signing statements five times to challenge nineteen provisions of federal statute, including a law restricting the use of U.S. troops in United Nations commands. According to Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the President’s use of signing statements to ignore provisions of standing law is a far more flagrant assertion of executive authority than would be an executive order halting gay discharges. “Contrary to what some have stated,” said Belkin, “using executive power to suspend the gay ban is not questionable or even controversial among major legal scholars. It is a power explicitly granted to the President by Congress under the ‘stop-loss’ statute.” By contrast, Belkin said, signing statements are a controversial use of executive authority that many, such as the American Bar Association, have called unconstitutional for usurping Congressional authority.
I wonder what the formerly gay congressman from Massachusetts has to say about this. After all, this was his argument, that Obama couldn’t help us on DADT lest he be ignoring the law:
I think it is unwise for liberals like myself, who were consistently critical of President Bush’s refusal to abide by the law in cases where he disagreed with it to now object when President Obama refuses to follow the Bush example.
But Obama is ignoring the law, when the law has nothing to do with keeping his promises to the gay community. Wonder if Barney has an opinion on this now.