President Obama is treading deeper and deeper into the morass of the Unitary Executive. The Hill is reporting that yesterday he issued a signing statement on the war supplemental bill, ignoring legislation that required him to negotiate for strong environmental and labor standards.
The Obama administration announced in the statement it would disregard provisions of the legislation that, among other things, would compel the Obama administration to pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards and require the Treasury department to report to Congress on the activities of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"Provisions of this bill...would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the Congress prior to such negotiations or discussions," Obama said in a statement.
"I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations," he added.
Is that what I voted for when I was promised that he, as a former Constitutional Law professor, was better suited than anyone else to remedy the corrosive effects of the reign of unitary executive power that Bush had established? I don't think so. I wanted a President whose constitutional teachings instructed him to follow the constitution, not to use his knowledge to interpret it to increase his own power.
And is it any surprise that the items he chooses to unconstitutionally ignore are the provisions which promote progressive labor and environmental values over the interests of globalization and big business? Provisions that would require Tim Geithner to be more transparent to Congress and the American people?
It isn't surprising at all. Civil liberty advocates, open goverment advocates, and labor advocates have all been, to a greater or lesser extent, thrown under the bus by this administration, while Rubinomics rules the day.
Perversely, we now have to hope that Congress, which before always quailed before Bush's power grabs, will have more of a spine and will challenge Obama's signing statements. When it comes to overreaching executive power, it doesn't matter which party is in the White House. We need Congress to challenge this action, and we need the Supreme Court to lay down the law and declare the President's actions unconstitutional.