Nancy Pelosi for the Plaintiff, Your Honor
Speaker Pelosi Threatens to Sue President Bush Over War Supplemental
By Mark I Posted in Featured Stories | War — Comments (7) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Today’s issue of The Hill reports that America’s Mother-in-Law™, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is floating a new strategy in Congress’s battle with the White House over Iraq War funding. She is threatening to sue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing statement as a way of sidestepping a carefully crafted compromise Iraq war spending bill.
Pelosi recently told a group of liberal bloggers, “We can take the president to court” if he issues a signing statement, according to Kid Oakland, a blogger who covered Pelosi’s remarks for the liberal website dailykos.com.
Fear not, however. As with every other strategy the Democrats have come up with to force a defeat in Iraq, this threat is an empty one.
Pelosi’s rationale appears to go like this: The Democratic Congress may pass a supplemental funding bill that contains provisions objectionable to the president; the president then may sign the bill and issue a signing statement in which he may spell out his objections to those provisions; the president then may decline to abide by those provisions that he finds objectionable.
Now let’s apply that rationale to the current debate. The Democrats would like to attach conditions to any funding bill that would mandate withdrawal of US forces if the conditions are not met by a date certain. Assuming they were able to put together a bill that the president would sign containg such conditions, the Democrats are afraid that President Bush would issue a presidential signing statement declaring the conditions to be advisory only since they would constitute an unconstitutional infringement on the president’s Article II authroity to direct the armed forces. He may then decline to withdraw troops at the Democrats’ date certain due to the reasoning laid out in his signing statement. Pelosi is afraid that the president may do this because of this sentence in his veto message vetoing the first supplemental:
This legislation is unconstitutional because it purports to direct the conduct of operations of the war in a way that infringes upon the powers vested in the presidency.
The lawsuit idea would be a way for Democrats to try and force the president to comply with the conditions in any legislation passed by Congress. Problem is, lawsuits like this have been tried before by Democrats, and have been rejected by the courts. The Hill article reports:
In the 1970s, congressional Democrats tried to get the courts to force President Nixon to stop bombing in Cambodia. The courts ruled that dissident lawmakers could not sue solely to obtain outcomes they could not secure in Congress. […]
Lawmakers have tried to sue presidents in the past for taking what they consider to be illegal military action, but courts have rejected such suits.
What’s more, the Democrats’ obsession with presidential signing statements won’t be yielding them any results anytime soon, either. Presidential signing statements are not only a perfectly acceptable and constitutional means for a president to express his reservations about particular provisions in bills he signs, they are also perfectly acceptable and constitutional means for a president to, “guide and direct Executive officials in interpreting or administering a statute.” That wording comes from a memorandum issued by the Justice Department to the White House Counsel. The memo is dated November 3, 1993, and is addressed to President Clinton’s White House Counsel, Bernard Nussbaum.
In each of the last three Administrations, the Department of Justice has advised the President that the Constitution provides him with the authority to decline to enforce a clearly unconstitutional law. This advice is, we believe, consistent with the views of the Framers. Moreover, four sitting Justices of the Supreme Court have joined in the opinion that the President may resist laws that encroach upon his powers by "disregard[ing] them when they are unconstitutional." Freytag v. C.I.R., 111 S. Ct. 2631, 2653 (1991) (Scalia, J., joined by O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter, JJ., concurring in part and concurring in judgment).
If the President may properly decline to enforce a law, at least when it unconstitutionally encroaches on his powers, then it arguably follows that he may properly announce to Congress and to the public that he will not enforce a provision of an enactment he is signing. If so, then a signing statement that challenges what the President determines to be an unconstitutional encroachment on his power, or that announces the President's unwillingness to enforce (or willingness to litigate) such a provision, can be a valid and reasonable exercise of Presidential authority. And indeed, in a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Federal Election Comm'n v. NRA Political Victory Fund, supra, the court cited to and relied upon a Presidential signing statement that had declared that a Congressionally-enacted limitation on the President's constitutional authority to appoint officers of the United States was without legal force or effect.
Mind you, none of this will stop our gal Nance. Neither the failure of past Democratic Congresses to sue for action on the part of the president, nor the opinion of the Clinton Justice Department on the constitutionality of signing statements, nor the Constitution itself will prevent the Speaker from pursuing any intellectually vapid idea that may win her support from the radical left wing that makes up the Democratic party’s base. It’s all just for show anyhow.
The American people are waking up to this nonsense. They are beginning to understand that the Democrats are interested in anything but the best interests of the troops. This view is reflected in the results of the most recent CNN poll, as teased out by Say Anything. In this poll, President Bush is rated by 57% of respondents as “strongly supporting” the troops. The Democrats only net 31% in the same category. Nearly as many respondents (25%) say that the Democrats “do not support” the troops. So, sue away, Madam Speaker. Pass your bill with conditions. For when the president ignores them, he will have not only the Constitution on his side, he will have the American people too.
Well, it’s not all bad for you, Speaker Pelosi. At least you’ve got Kos.