On Wednesday, the President signed “The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007.” In response to FEMA’s disastrous response to Katrina — led by the former Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, Michael Brown (a.k.a. Brownie) — Congress included some minimum professional requirements for FEMA’s director. From the bill:
President Bush, however, released a “signing statement” at the time he signed the bill. In it, he asserted his constitutional right to continue to install incompetent FEMA administrators. From the statement released by the President:
Section 503(c)(2) vests in the President authority to appoint the Administrator, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, but purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the President may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office. The executive branch shall construe section 503(c)(2) in a manner consistent with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.
It’s unclear how requiring someone to have five years of management experience and some knowledge of emergency management “rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified.” Georgetown Law School professor Marty Lederman noted, “It’s hard to imagine a more modest and reasonable congressional response to the Michael Brown fiasco,” he said.
Nevertheless, President Bush has “asserted that he has the executive authority to disobey” the law.