One of the most hated actions taken by former (wow that feels good) president George W. Bush was the signing statement.
For those who need some brushing up, The American Presidency Project has a good explanation of signing statements, but the meat of the controversy is in this quote: "... more controversial statements involve claims by presidents that they believe some part of the legislation is unconstitutional and therefore they intend to ignore it or to implement it only in ways they believe is constitutional"
I am not certain whether President Obama had issued a signing statement that falls into this controversial category previously. However, he has clearly done so in his signing statement upon signing H.R. 2346, the "Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009."
The full text of the statement can be found in the above link, but the relevant, controversial part of the statement is as follows:
However, provisions of this bill within sections 1110 to 1112 of title XI, and sections 1403 and 1404 of title XIV, 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. I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.
In other words, the president is saying that various provisions of this bill tie his hands in terms of negotiations and discussions with foreign governments and organizations, and claiming these provisions interfere with his constitutional powers. He then basically states that he will unilaterally interpret these provisions as not interfering with his ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.
So what are these provisions?
Well, let's take a look.
promotion of policy goals at the world bank group
Sec. 1110. Title XVI of the International Financial Institutions Act (22 U.S.C. 262p et seq.) is amended by adding at the end thereof the following:
`SEC. 1626. REFORM OF THE `DOING BUSINESS' REPORT OF THE WORLD BANK.
`(a) The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States Executive Directors at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association, and the International Finance Corporation of the following United States policy goals, and to use the voice and vote of the United States to actively promote and work to achieve these goals:
`(1) Suspension of the use of the `Employing Workers' Indicator for the purpose of ranking or scoring country performance in the annual Doing Business Report of the World Bank until a set of indicators can be devised that fairly represent the value of internationally recognized workers' rights, including core labor standards, in creating a stable and favorable environment for attracting private investment. The indicators shall bring to bear the experiences of the member governments in dealing with the economic, social and political complexity of labor market issues. The indicators should be developed through collaborative discussions with and between the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the International Labor Organization, private companies, and labor unions.
`(2) Elimination of the `Labor Tax and Social Contributions' Subindicator from the annual Doing Business Report of the World Bank.
`(3) Removal of the `Employing Workers' Indicator as a `guidepost' for calculating the annual Country Policy and Institutional Assessment score for each recipient country.
`(b) Within 60 days after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary of the Treasury shall provide an instruction to the United States Executive Directors referred to in subsection (a) to take appropriate actions with respect to implementing the policy goals of the United States set forth in subsection (a), and such instruction shall be posted on the website of the Department of the Treasury.
`SEC. 1627. ENHANCING THE TRANSPARENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THE INSPECTION PANEL PROCESS OF THE WORLD BANK.
`(a) Enhancing Transparency in Implementation of Management Action Plans- The Secretary of the Treasury shall direct the United States Executive Directors at the World Bank to seek to ensure that World Bank Procedure 17.55, which establishes the operating procedures of Management with regard to the Inspection Panel, provides that Management prepare and make available to the public semiannual progress reports describing implementation of Action Plans considered by the Board; allow and receive comments from Requesters and other Affected Parties for two months after the date of disclosure of the progress reports; post these comments on World Bank and Inspection Panel websites (after receiving permission from the requestors to post with or without attribution); submit the reports to the Board with any comments received; and make public the substance of any actions taken by the Board after Board consideration of the reports.
`(b) Safeguarding the Independence and Effectiveness of the Inspection Panel- The Secretary of the Treasury shall direct the United States Executive Directors at the World Bank to continue to promote the independence and effectiveness of the Inspection Panel, including by seeking to ensure the availability of, and access by claimants to, the Inspection Panel for projects supported by World Bank resources.
`(c) Evaluation of Country Systems- The Secretary of the Treasury shall direct the United States Executive Directors at the World Bank to request an evaluation by the Independent Evaluation Group on the use of country environmental and social safeguard systems to determine the degree to which, in practice, the use of such systems provides the same level of protection at the project level as do the policies and procedures of the World Bank.
`(d) World Bank Defined- In this section, the term `World Bank' means the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association.'.
climate change mitigation and greenhouse gas accounting
Sec. 1111. Title XIII of the International Financial Institutions Act (22 U.S.C. 262m et seq.) is amended by adding at the end thereof the following:
`SEC. 1308. CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION AND GREENHOUSE GAS ACCOUNTING.
`(a) Use of Greenhouse Gas Accounting- The Secretary of the Treasury shall seek to ensure that multilateral development banks (as defined in section 1701(c)(4) of this Act) adopt and implement greenhouse gas accounting in analyzing the benefits and costs of individual projects (excluding those with de minimus greenhouse gas emissions) for which funding is sought from the bank.
`(b) Expansion of Climate Change Mitigation Activities- The Secretary of the Treasury shall work to ensure that the multilateral development banks (as defined in section 1701(c)(4)) expand their activities supporting climate change mitigation by--
`(1) significantly expanding support for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, including zero carbon technologies;
`(2) reviewing all proposed infrastructure investments to ensure that all opportunities for integrating energy efficiency measures have been considered;
`(3) increasing the dialogue with the governments of developing countries regarding--
`(A) analysis and policy measures needed for low carbon emission economic development; and
`(B) reforms needed to promote private sector investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, including zero carbon technologies; and
`(4) integrate low carbon emission economic development objectives into multilateral development bank country strategies.
`(c) Report to Congress- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this section, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of the Treasury shall submit a report on the status of efforts to implement this section to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.'.
multilateral development bank reform
Sec. 1112. (a) Budget Disclosure- The Secretary of the Treasury shall seek to ensure that the multilateral development banks make timely, public disclosure of their operating budgets including expenses for staff, consultants, travel and facilities.
(b) Evaluation- The Secretary of the Treasury shall seek to ensure that multilateral development banks rigorously evaluate the development impact of selected bank projects, programs, and financing operations, and emphasize use of random assignment in conducting such evaluations, where appropriate and to the extent feasible.
(c) Extractive Industries- The Secretary of the Treasury shall direct the United States Executive Directors at the multilateral development banks to promote the endorsement of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) by these institutions and the integration of the principles of the EITI into extractive industry-related projects that are funded by the multilateral development banks.
(d) Report- Not later than September 30, 2009, the Secretary of the Treasury shall submit a report to the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, and the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives, detailing actions taken by the multilateral development banks to achieve the objectives of this section.
(e) Coordination of Development Policy- The Secretary of the Treasury shall consult with the Secretary of State, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and other Federal agencies, as appropriate, in the formulation and implementation of United States policy relating to the development activities of the World Bank Group.
Sec. 1403. (a) Not later than 30 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Executive Director of the World Bank and the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (the Fund), shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees detailing the steps taken to coordinate the activities of the World Bank and the Fund to avoid duplication of missions and programs, and steps taken by the Department of the Treasury and the Fund to increase the oversight and accountability of the Fund's activities.
(b) For the purposes of this title, `appropriate congressional committees' means the Committees on Appropriations, Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Foreign Relations of the Senate, and the Committees on Appropriations, Foreign Affairs, and Financial Services of the House of Representatives.
(c) In the next report to Congress on international economic and exchange rate policies, the Secretary of the Treasury shall: (1) report on ways in which the Fund's surveillance function under Article IV could be enhanced and made more effective in terms of avoiding currency manipulation; (2) report on the feasibility and usefulness of publishing the Fund's internal calculations of indicative exchange rates; and (3) provide recommendations on the steps that the Fund can take to promote global financial stability and conduct effective multilateral surveillance.
(d) The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose any loan, project, agreement, memorandum, instrument, plan, or other program of the Fund to a Heavily Indebted Poor Country that imposes budget caps or restraints that do not allow the maintenance of or an increase in governmental spending on health care or education; and to promote government spending on health care, education, food aid, or other critical safety net programs in all of the Fund's activities with respect to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries.
Sec. 1404. Title XVI of the International Financial Institutions Act (22 U.S.C. 262p-262p-8) is amended by adding at the end the following: `The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States Executive Director at each of the International Financial Institutions (as defined in section 1701(c)(2) of this Act) to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose the provision of loans or other use of the funds of the respective institution to any country the government of which the Secretary of State has determined, for purposes of section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979, section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, or section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, to be a government that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.'.
So these provisions involve the World Bank and IMF controversies in the bills. For more on those controversies, I would suggest you check out some of David Waldman's posts over at Congress Matters (this one is a good start), and yes, seriously, check them out.
I am not going to speculate on the president's reason for doing this, nor will I offer any judgment on whether or not he's violating the law. That's what the comments section is for.
However, I will note another provision in this bill that the President did not cite, suggesting he intends to carry it out.
prohibition on assistance to hamas
Sec. 1107. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this title may be made available for assistance to Hamas, or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member.
(b) Notwithstanding the limitation of subsection (a), assistance may be provided to a power-sharing government only if the President certifies in writing and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
(c) The President may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act as added by the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this section.
(d) Whenever the certification pursuant to subsection (b) is exercised, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations within 120 days of the certification and every quarter thereafter on whether such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, are continuing to comply with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The report shall also detail the amount, purposes and delivery mechanisms for any assistance provided pursuant to the abovementioned certification and a full accounting of any direct support of such government.
I unfortunately can't stay for comments, because I'm checking out the synagogue in Auburn, Alabama. Shabbat Shalom, y'all.