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President Barack Obama signs the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, Thursday, April 5, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) President Barack Obama signs the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, Thursday, April 5, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Obama denounced ‘signing statements’ under Bush, now uses them as president

Photo of W. James Antle III
W. James Antle III
Editor, The Daily Caller News Foundation

President Barack Obama continued his use of presidential signing statements Wednesday, expressing regret about parts of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as he signed it into law.

“I have approved this annual defense authorization legislation, as I have in previous years, because it authorizes essential support for service members and their families, renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world,” Obama wrote.

“Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all,” the president continued. “Though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore.”

While a candidate in 2008, Obama frequently criticized President George W. Bush for issuing such statements, calling them an unconstitutional “end-run” around Congress.

“Congress’ job is to pass legislation,” Obama explained. “The president can veto it or he can sign it. But what George Bush has been trying to do as part of his effort to accumulate more power in the presidency. … He’s been saying, well I can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter saying ‘I don’t agree with this part or I don’t agree with that part, I’m going to choose to interpret it this way or that way.’”

“That’s not part of his power, but this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he goes along,” he went on to say. “I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.” (RELATED: Obama calls conscience clause for military chaplains ‘unnecessary and ill-advised’)

Obama has not only continued to use presidential signing statements, but has been criticized for executive actions on immigration policy — such as his 2012 order not to deport young illegal immigrants who would have been eligible for amnesty under the Dream Act, which did not pass — that have been called end-runs around Congress.

The president expressed his disagreement with the NDAA’s conscience clause protections for military chaplains who object to same-sex marriage and provisions restricting his ability to move prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay. He did not address indefinite detention this year.

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