Unitary Executive Authority
I'll be waiting for hour-long shows on prime time Corporate Media Outlets (CMOs) to explain why the Bush Administration is completely changing how American laws are written and carried out. Since 2002 George Bush has been adding a "Signing Statement" to many of the bills (~90) that have been passed through Congress and signed by him. These Signing Statements are published all over the White House website as kind of "riders" to the signitures to the bills passed and signed.
Signing Statements have been used in the past by other Presidents but it was mainly meant to layout the Presidents understanding of what the bill meant. The Signing Statements added in by George Bush however are different. They are written in legalese but basically say that even though he has signed this bill he is not bound by anything in it. This is the first time this term the unitary executive branch is used.
It usually reads something like this:
Further, the executive branch shall construe section 1913 as amended in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and to recommend to the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.
or another version...
The executive branch shall construe this provision in a manner consistent with the constitutional authorities of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch.
Sometime back in 2002 Bush and his laywers started using this language to redefine the Presidential powers. The theory is basically like this:
Several scholars have recently rearticulated the "unitary executive theory" of Article II, arguing that Article II vests the power to execute federal law solely in the President of the United States. Unitarians do not maintain that the President must personally execute all laws; Congress may establish an administrative bureaucracy and identify particular officials to assist the President in carrying out legislatively prescribed tasks. But, unitarians argue, such officials must always remain subject to the President's direction. On the surface, this unitary executive theory appears to be implicated when Congress conscripts or even authorizes state officials to implement federal programs. Unless these state officials are subject to presidential supervision, Congress violates Article II by cutting the President out of the execution loop. Thus, principles of separation of powers, in addition to principles of federalism, govern the validity of state administration of federal law.
There's been quite a bit written in the legal community about it but in laymen terms it means that the President is not bound by any laws that limits his power. It's an incredible statement. The President basically becomes the unquestionable Ruler without any laws that can control his actions. This is a slap in the face to a country bound by the rule of law and the antithesis to the separation of powers that is built into our Constitution.
Here's a paper (PDF Format) written last year by Chrisopher Kelley on the subject.
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Raw Story has a good write up on this.
Great post by Media Watch on the subject.
Alito Watch: - Samuel Alito is one of the formost advocates of expanding presidential power. I hope that the Senators on the review committee bring this subject up. It's a great opportunity to get this out in the open and into public discourse.
It's a discussion that can define our country.