Yesterday, President Bush asserted “that he had the executive power to bypass several parts of two bills: a military authorization act and a measure giving inspectors general greater independence from White House control,” the New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports:
In the authorization bill, Mr. Bush challenged four sections. One forbid the money from being used “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq”; another required negotiations for an agreement by which Iraq would share some of the costs of the American military operations there. [...]
In the other bill, he raised concerns about two sections that strengthen legal protections against political interference with the internal watchdog officials at each executive agency. One section gives the inspectors general a right to counsels who report directly to them. But Mr. Bush wrote in his signing statement that such lawyers would be bound to follow the legal interpretations of the politically appointed counsels at each agency.
Bush has issued signing statements to bypass more than 1,100 sections of laws. A recent report by the House Armed Services Committee said Bush has used the statements in a “broad and unsubstantiated” manner and that 78 percent of them “have raised constitutional or legal objections.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told ThinkProgress:
The White House is holding on until the end to a strategy set early on by Vice President Cheney. With one pen the President signs a bill into law. With another stroke he chooses which parts of the law he will enforce. In undermining these watchdog reforms for inspectors general, the Bush-Cheney White House again is willing to subvert good-government accountability in order to buttress self-serving claims of unfettered authority.
,Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who introduced the inspector general reform legislation, told ThinkProgress:
In an age where people are frustrated with the status quo in their federal government, we needed this legislation because Americans deserve to know we are watching out for their tax dollars. This is a strong, bipartisan bill that will do a lot of good, and I’m disappointed that the president has tried to undermine this effort to strengthen oversight and accountability in the federal government.