Yesterday brought more news that the Obama administration is working towards making the government more accountable. Echoing POGO's recommendations for the next administration, President Obama issued a memo yesterday to the heads of executive departments and agencies directing them to seek the advice of the Attorney General before applying previously issued signing statements to enforcing existing statutes.
As we point out in our recommendation, when the President disagrees with a law, the legitimate tool for expressing this disagreement is a veto, not an executive signing statement that cannot be overridden by Congress. Charlie Savage wrote an excellent Pulitzer-prize winning series when he was at the Boston Globe about the use and abuse of executive signing statements, and POGO has also pointed to specific instances of this abuse, including President Bush utilizing an executive signing statement to make optional provisions in the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill to establish an independent, bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting (fortunately, the government opted in on this provision) and to extend whistleblower protections to employees of defense contractors.
In short, this memo is great news.
-- Mandy Smithberger
UPDATE: President Obama issued his first signing statement today, suggesting that agencies should treat the opinions of Congressional committees as advisory when they spend or reallocate the omnibus spending funds. Well, he didn't say he wasn't going to use signing statements at all (and as Chris Good points out, he did mention that omnibus spending is why signing statements can be useful).