Presidential Signing Statements: Congressional Actions

(Update, 04/24/20): On April 3, we provided a summary of all the congressional actions related to signing statements. Here is an analysis of the common themes in the legislation: 

  • Requires the Executive to give Congress notice and reasoning for all statements.
  • Bars government entities (including state and federal courts) from using signing statements in interpreting the law.
  • Gives Congress standing to seek declaratory relief, allows Congress to intervene in cases or allows Congress to issue “clarifying” statement.  
  • Requires AG, Deputy AG, White House Counsel to testify before Judiciary at the behest of any single member to explain; can’t invoke executive privilege.  
  • Limits funds made available to the Executive to produce, publish, or disseminate any signing statement.
  • Cuts off funding authorized or expended to implement any law accompanied by a signing statement if Executive doesn’t comply with congressional restrictions on signing statements. 

(Original Article) Following up on our discussion of Signing Statements (triggered by the President’s signing statement on the coronavirus relief legislation), here are the hearings and legislation we found on the subject. If we missed something, please email maggi@demandprogress.org

Legislation

Note: None had activity beyond being introduced and referred to committee

H.J.Res.87 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)
Sponsor: Rep. Frank, Barney [D-MA-4] (Introduced 05/25/2006) Cosponsors: (7)
Requiring the President to notify Congress if the President makes a determination at the time of signing a bill into law to ignore a duly enacted provision of such newly enacted law, establishing expedited procedures for the consideration of legislation in the House of Representatives in response to such a determination, and for other purposes.

H.J.Res.89 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)
Sponsor: Rep. Frank, Barney [D-MA-4] (Introduced 06/16/2006) Cosponsors: (9)
Requiring the President to notify Congress if the President makes a determination to ignore a duly enacted provision of law, establishing expedited procedures for the consideration of legislation in the House of Representatives in response to such a determination, and for other purposes.

S.3731: 109th Congress (2005-2006) 
Sponsor: Sen. Specter, Arlen [R-PA] (Introduced 07/26/2006) Cosponsors: (0)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2006 

H.R.264: 110th Congress (2007-2008) 
Sponsor: Rep. Jackson-Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18] (Introduced 01/05/2007) Cosponsors: (0)
Congressional Lawmaking Authority Protection Act of 2007

S.1747: 110th Congress (2007-2008) 
Sponsor: Sen. Specter, Arlen [R-PA] (Introduced 06/29/2007) Cosponsors: (4)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007

H.R.3045: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Rep. Shea-Porter, Carol [D-NH-1] (Introduced 07/16/2007) Cosponsors: (59)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007

S.Res.303: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Sen. Feingold, Russell D. [D-WI] (Introduced 08/03/2007) Cosponsors: (1)
A resolution censuring the President and the Attorney General

H.Res.626: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Rep. Hinchey, Maurice D. [D-NY-22] (Introduced 08/04/2007) Cosponsors: (23)
Censuring the President and Attorney General

H.R.3835: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Rep. Paul, Ron [R-TX-14] (Introduced 10/15/2007) Cosponsors: (2)
American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007

H.R.5993: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Rep. Jones, Walter B., Jr. [R-NC-3] (Introduced 05/08/2008) Cosponsors: (0)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2008

H.Res.1509: 110th Congress (2007-2008)
Sponsor: Rep. Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI-2] (Introduced 09/26/2008) Cosponsors: (0)
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the next president of the United States should immediately work to reverse damaging and illegal actions taken by the Bush/Cheney Administration and collaborate with Congress to proactively prevent any further abuses of executive branch power.

H.R.149: 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Sponsor: Rep. Jones, Walter B., Jr. [R-NC-3] (Introduced 01/06/2009) Cosponsors: (1)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2009

H.R.258: 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Sponsor: Rep. Jackson-Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18] (Introduced 01/07/2009) Cosponsors: (0)
Congressional Lawmaking Authority Protection Act of 2009

S.875: 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Sponsor: Sen. Specter, Arlen [R-PA] (Introduced 04/23/2009) Cosponsors: (2)
Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2009

H.Res.417: 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Sponsor: Rep. Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI-2] (Introduced 05/07/2009) Cosponsors: (0)
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that President Barack Obama should immediately work to reverse damaging and illegal actions taken by the Bush/Cheney Administration and collaborate with Congress to proactively prevent any further abuses of executive branch power.

H.R.3362: 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Sponsor: Rep. Miller, Brad [D-NC-13] (Introduced 07/28/2009) Cosponsors: (6)
Checks and Balances Restoration and Revitalization Act

Hearings:

June 27, 2006: “Presidential Signing Statements” 
Senate Judiciary Committee.  Written record (no video found).  NPR story and NBC article.  

January 31, 2007: “Presidential Signing Statements Under The Bush Administration: A Threat To Checks And Balances And The Rule Of Law?” 
House Judiciary Committee. Video (poor video quality but only version we could find) and written record. Politico article and June follow-up article on GAO report.

February 8, 2008: “Negative Implications of the President’s Signing Statement on the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act” 
House Committee on Financial Services. Written record (no video found). 

March 11, 2008: “Impact of the Presidential Signing Statement on the Department of Defense’s Implementation of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act” 
House Committee on Armed Services.  Video and written record.  

July 25, 2008: “Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations” 
House Judiciary Committee. Video and written record

Members still serving who were on those committees:  

Senators:  Baldwin (in House), Cornyn, Durbin, Feinstein, Graham, Grassley, Leahy, Moore Capito (in House), Schumer. 

Representatives: Chabot, Clay, Cleaver, Cohen, Conaway, Cooper, Davis, Gohmert, Green, Jackson Lee, Johnson (Hank), Jordan, King (Peter), King (Steve), Lofgren, Lucas, Lynch, Maloney, Marchant, McCarthy, McHenry, Meeks, Moore, Nadler, Perlmetter, Sanchez, Scott (Bobbie), Scott (David), Sensenbrenner, Schiff, Sherman, Velazquez, Wasserman-Schultz, Waters. 

Resources:

2012 CRS Report (original report in 2006; updated in 2007 and 2012)

2006 ABA Report  (unanimous recommendations for legislation)

  • Urge Congress to enact legislation requiring the President promptly to submit to Congress an official copy of all signing statements, and to report to Congress the reasons and legal basis for any instance in which he claims the authority, or states the intention, to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress, and to make all such submissions be available in a publicly accessible database. 
  • Urge Congress to enact legislation enabling the President, Congress, or other entities or individuals, to seek judicial review of such signing statements to the extent constitutionally permissible, and urge Congress and the President to support a judicial resolution of the President’s claim or interpretation.