Allergic to vetoes?

by Walter Olson on April 22, 2014

President Obama has signed a bill he deems unconstitutional — it purports to (very slightly) restrict presidential authority to receive certain foreign ambassadors on U.S. territory — while issuing a signing statement calling the measure “advisory” [Josh Blackman] If Congress tries to get away with something unconstitutional, isn’t it more consistent with the President’s oath to defend the Constitution for him to veto it rather than sign-and-ignore?

One might sympathize (if not necessarily agree) with a President who gave up and signed a 400-page omnibus funding bill containing an unconstitutional provision on page 237 about the Cedar Rapids post office. But a bill whose whole point is unconstitutional is supposed to be the easy case, no?

More from Michael Ramsey at Originalism Blog, Mike Rappaport at the same, and Will Baude at Volokh Conspiracy.

{ 5 comments }

1 John Fembup 04.22.14 at 8:54 am

“veto it rather than sign-and-ignore”

But that would be out in the open rather than sneaky.

Most people have come to realize that this administration claims “It’s the law of the land” only when it chooses. Otherwise, it apparently considers a great many laws to be “advisory.”

Continued disrespect for the Constitution and our laws whether sneaky or open, and coming as it does from the White House itself, will not end well for anyone.

I think people need to stop treating this type of executive misbehavior as a joke or an object of irony; instead we need to be angry about it and start telling our state and local politicians just how fed up we are.

2 jdgalt 04.22.14 at 10:04 am

The only reason I can see for sign-and-ignore is that the president has made a deal that requires him to sign the bill. I wonder what he’s getting in return?

The courts are going to have to change the “standing” rules to give the people a way to overturn actions like this. Otherwise they might just as well crown him King and have done.

3 Allan 04.22.14 at 4:19 pm

I believe that he did not veto for political reasons. That is, the original vote for the law was by u unanimous consent, almost guaranteeing it had enough votes to override a veto. In other words, the bill was to become law one way or another.

So, either the president could sign the law, declaring it unconstitutional. Or he could veto it, it could get passed again, and he could choose not to enforce it.

I don’t think there was a good choice here. there, almost literally, was nothing the president could do, other than to vow not to enforce the law.

4 Imaginary 04.22.14 at 4:44 pm

If he did veto it, and the veto was overridden it still would not make the law constitutional. That is a completely separate issue and should be decided by the courts, assuming they do not duck it as a political question. The current supreme court case Zivotofsky v. Kerry is an interesting dispute between POTUS and Congress with many similarities. And signing statements by various presidents are being used to support how far executive authority extends.

This signing statement is largely just posturing because the law only prohibits visas to UN ambassadors whereas POTUS has authority to receive ambassadors to the US and it appears the State Department denied the visa anyway.

5 John Fembup 04.22.14 at 4:51 pm

Allan says “I don’t think there was a good choice here. there, almost literally, was nothing the president could do, other than to vow not to enforce the law.”

Of course there was a “good choice”. Obama could have signed the law and proceeded to see that it is enforced. Or, if he believes it is unconstitutional, he could have vetoed the law and forced Congress to override. In other words, you know, Obama could have chosen to act in accordance with the Constitution and his oath of office.

So I’d say instead that the president has once again violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.

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