Bush power grab a serious constitutional challenge
charges Senator Feinstein
President evades national law on military torture,
immigration policy and domestic surveillance,
former San Francisco mayor alleges
US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) warns President Bush
on a unitary executive form of government.
By Pat Murphy and Luke
Copyright fogcityjournal.com 2006
May 31, 2006
President Bush evades constitutional limitation on presidential
war powers and sidesteps constraining legislation he signs into
law, US Senator Dianne Feinstein said in San Francisco Tuesday.
Both actions constitute "a serious constitutional challenge,"
Feinstein asserts the Bush Administration has engineered a policy
to purposefully circumvent and manipulate the US Constitution
framework of inherent checks and balances.
"This administration has, in my view, implemented a multi-pronged
ongoing effort to concentrate power under the Executive, contrary
to our constitutional framework," the former San Francisco
mayor told members of the Queen's Bench Bar Association.
Bush appointee Kevin Ryan among those listening.
Ryan serves as United States Attorney for the Northern California
"Under the Bush Administration our country is experiencing
a fundamental change in direction... to tip the balance of power
between the branches of government."
By use of signing statements - presidential addenda to congressional
bills signed into law - Bush creates presidential executive authority
not to implement the very provisions he's signed into law, Feinstein
"For anyone who is not familiar with signing statements
I think it is important to understand exactly what they are,"
"A signing statement is a written pronouncement about a
statute and generally includes his legal interpretation of the
law before him for signature or veto.
"Under President Bush these statements often include language
which asserts that the president will not follow the statute based
on his belief of its interference with his 'plenary authority.'
"I want to be clear about this point, in these statements
President Bush is arguing that he will ignore parts, or whole,
of the very statute that he has signed into law."
Bush has used signing statements to assert presidential right
not to implement national law on military use of torture, immigration
policies, and provisions of the Patriot Act, Feinstein stated..
By asserting such presidential right, Bush usurps the judiciary
by claiming the presidency "has the authority to interpret
- not execute - but interpret the law"
"Thereby, in a sense, acting as a judge as well as the executive."
The Bush Administration has issued more signing statements than
all previous presidents combined.
President Monroe began the use of signing statements.
A total of 322 such statements were signed from the Monroe Administration
through the Clinton Administration, with the Bush Administration
issuing 435 signing statements in its first term of office.
The current presidency also exerts broad authority of a unitary
executive, Feinstein maintained.
"The Bush Administration is also expanding its authority
by implementing the concept of the unitary executive.
"This theory essentially states that all executive authority
resides with the presidency, meaning that all executive power
must be exercised only by those who report to him in the executive
"The US Supreme Court directly engaged in the debate in
the case Morrison v. Olson. In a 7-1 decision authored by Chief
Justice Rehnquist, the court upheld the independent counsel statute
and in doing so unequivocally and explicitly rejected the theory
of the unitary executive.
"Yet despite the Morrision decision, the Bush Administration
has aggressively resurrected the concept of the unitary executive
and used it as justification for many of its actions.
"For example the consolidation of authority and power under
the president calls into question the independence of almost 50
government agencies, including:
-- Federal Election Commission
-- Federal Reserve System
-- Office of Government Ethics
-- Office of the Special Council"
In addition, Bush has used the unitary executive concept to broaden
presidential war powers, stated Feinstein.
"Throughout this administration President Bush has asserted
that since the constitution dictates that the president shall
be commander in chief, that he - as the unitary executive - has
the exclusive authority to dictate the parameters of this power.
"While the language of Article II does make the president
commander in chief, the Bush Administration's interpretation of
what that means simply ignores the full text of the constitution.
"This language is clear. It is the congress that is invested
with the power to define the parameters and regulate our armed
forces, the acts of war, and its incidents."
Legal constraints on domestic surveillance are sidestepped by
unitary executive privilege Bush claims, the Democratic senator
"In 1978 congress passed a law after six years of careful
consideration called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Yet, the "Bush Administration has asserted that it has the
authority to conduct domestic surveillance programs without receiving
either a warrant, or other FISA court approval based on his Article
"In making this argument the administration has argued that
congress has no power to check or limit the president from exercising
his authority and 'inherent' power to wage war against our enemies..
That assertion usurps both congressional and judiciary authority,
"If the Bush Administration is correct then this would constitute
a fundamental shift in the balance of powers between the branches
"It essentially means the president can do whatever he wants
in the name of national security without having to answer to the
legislature or the judiciary."
In a related matter, US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California)
yesterday announced she will introduce a resolution calling for
withdrawal of American troops from Iraq within six months.
Boxer sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.