The Constitutionality of Presidential Signing Statements

Faith Joseph Jackson, “The Constitutionality of Presidential Signing Statements: A Note on H.R. 5993 – The Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2008,” 35 Journal of Legislation 1 (2009).


This legislative note will examine H.R. 5993, the Presidential Signing Statement Act of 2008, by addressing the history of presidential signing statements, the use of presidential signing statements by recent administrations, and what gave rise to the American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and Separation of Powers Doctrine.   This paper will also discuss the contents of H.R. 5993, the likelihood of it passing muster through Congress and the executive branch, and if so, its impact on current administration and its immediate successor.”

President Obama and Signing Statements

An excerpt from today’s new White House Memorandum:

“In recent years, there has been considerable public discussion and criticism of the use of signing statements to raise constitutional objections to statutory provisions. There is no doubt that the practice of issuing such statements can be abused. Constitutional signing statements should not be used to suggest that the President will disregard statutory requirements on the basis of policy disagreements. At the same time, such signing statements serve a legitimate function in our system, at least when based on well-founded constitutional objections. In appropriately limited circumstances, they represent an exercise of the President’s constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and they promote a healthy dialogue between the executive branch and the Congress.”

“With these considerations in mind and based upon advice of the Department of Justice, I will issue signing statements to address constitutional concerns only when it is appropriate to do so as a means of discharging my constitutional responsibilities.”

Law Library Journal (Fall 2008): “Schoolhouse Rock is No Longer Enough”

The latest issue of Law Library Journal [vol. 100, no. 4, Fall 2008] has an interesting piece by I-Wei Wang, Reference Librarian, University of California Berkeley, School of Law Library titled “Schoolhouse Rock is No Longer Enough: The Presidential Signing Statements Controversy and Its Implications for Library Professionals.” The particularly aggressive use by President George W. Bush of  signing statements as a form of “don’t veto, don’t obey” action (dubbed by some, including the article’s author, as OPSS or “objecting presidential signing statements”) certainly — among other things — casts some doubt on the continued use of the simple and direct Schoolhouse Rock musical cartoon video “I’m Just a Bill” to accurately convey the federal lawmaking process as concluding when the President either vetoes or signs a bill into law.