Signing an Amendment’s Death Warrant

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on

Ok, so it’s voting an amendment’s death, but I needed something catchy to cover two issues.

For those who don’t know, the Flag Desecration Amendment died in the Senate by one vote…yep, one. If it had passed, it would had been sent to the states for ratification. That was one close shave, in yet another attempt to legislate non-hurtful free speech. Like I said in my previous FDA entry, I’m against desecration myself. However, it is a form of free speech which has been ruled by the Supreme Court to be as such in the past, twice. I’m glad that it has been upheld, but it will probably be brought back against next session, given its close shave.

Speaking of shaving, our good President has been reported as possibly shaving up the Constitution, again. The issue at hand this time deals with signing statements. I’ve actually known about the President’s potential signing statement misuses for several months, since my political science teacher brought it up in class one day (and many times afterward). Why it’s suddenly gained prominence in the national media is beyond me. In particular, the President is under fire for the following signing statement accompanying his signing of the defense appropriations bill of 2005, including the McCain Detainee Amendment, which basically prohibts the use of torture and other degrading tactics against the detainees:

“The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.”

Now, I know that this is probably flying over some people’s heads, but my research informs me that the problem people have with the above statement starts at “unitary executive branch.” The unitary executive is the subject of the unitary executive theory, which states that the power of Congress to limit the President’s control of the executive branch is limited. Basically, presidents who submit to the theory believe that the executive branch is theirs to control, and nobody else can take an agency away from them, or fire an officer from an agency. So, it’s all about executive power. Well, some people are very frightened by this idea, and for good reason. Some presidents have overstepped bounds previously. FDR during World War II, with the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans. Nixon, and his grabs at executive power, which lead to Watergate.

So, how does the theory apply here? Well, some people are worried that the President’s signing statement suggests that if he so chooses, Bush will ignore the amendment when he deems it necessary. Meaning that if he deems torture necessary to try and get answers, that he’ll approve it.

I personally don’t like the idea of him opting to ignore such a profound provision. However, this, along with Cheney’s recommendation that the CIA be exempted from the torture amendment (which never happened), makes me worry. With that said, here’s the full text of Title X. Read up, and make up your own mind on this matter.

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