Presidential signing statements

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Presidential signing statements are proclamations added by the President of the United States to pieces of legislation he signs indicating how he intends to interperet and enforce it.


Signing statements in history

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution which mandates or suggests that a president issue any statement upon signing a bill presented by the U.S. Congress. Such a requirement applies only when a president vetoes a bill, as the Constitution asks that he clarify his objections so that Congress can consider them. Nevertheless, presidents have issued statements elaborating on their views regarding signed legislation since President James Monroe, the nation’s fifth chief-executive. In his case, Monroe signed a bill which mandated a reduction in the size of the army and prescribed the method by which the president should select military officers. A month following the signing, he issued a statement declaring that the president, not Congress, possessed the constitutional authority of appointing military officers.

For the remainder of the nineteenth century, signing statements were used sparingly. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed an appropriations bill providing for a road from Detroit to Chicago, but issued a statement insisting that the road involved was not to extend beyond Michigan. The U.S. House of Representatives vigorously objected to the statement, but ultimately honored Jackson's wishes.

Signing statements began to play a bigger role in the early twentieth century. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed his intention to ignore a restriction on his power to establish volunteer commissions in a signing statement. Several years later, President Woodrow Wilson openly declared that a piece of legislation he signed violated 32 treaties, something he refused to d