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Whiplash Warning: Obama Issues First Signing Statement

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You had to know this was coming–but just one day after Obama announced that he’s not going to use signing statements the way Bush did?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days after criticizing his predecessor for issuing guidelines on how to put legislation into practice, President Barack Obama issued such a directive himself.

Out of public view Wednesday, Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill that includes billions for items known as earmarks, the targeted spending that lawmakers direct to projects in their districts. Obama promised during the presidential campaign to curb such spending.

He also issued a “signing statement” in which he objected to provisions of the bill that he said the Justice Department had advised “raise constitutional concerns.” Among them are provisions that Obama said would “unduly interfere” with his authority in the foreign affairs arena by directing him how to proceed, or not to, in negotiations and discussions with international organizations and foreign governments.

Another provision, Obama said, would limit his discretion to choose who performs specific functions in military missions.

Here is the signing statement (Warning: PDF file) At Talking Points Memo, Elana Schor notes that Obama is claiming the right to “reallocate money as he sees fit without abiding by the spending bill’s requirement to first get approval from Congress.” Here is the relevant portion of the statement:

Numerous provisions of the legislation purport to condition the authority of officers to spend or reallocate funds on the approval of congressional committees. These are impermissible forms of legislative aggrandizement in the execution of the laws other than by enactment of statutes. Therefore, although my Administration will notify the relevant committees before taking the specified actions, and will accord the recommendations of such committees all appropriate and serious consideration, spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees. Likewise, one other provision gives congressional committees the power to establish guidelines for funding costs associated with implementing security improvements to buildings. Executive officials shall treat such guidelines as advisory.

Yet another provision requires the Secretary of the Treasury to accede to all requests of a Board of Trustees that contains congressional representatives. The Secretary shall treat such requests as nonbinding.

{{ Sigh! }} This is starting to get kind of routine. Can’t he do something to surprise us? Or how about not making the promises in the first place and just going ahead and doing whatever Bush did?

And doesn’t the House control the purse? I thought they were supposed to determine how money is spent.