WASHINGTON (CNN) – Just days after issuing a directive that has the potential to limit the impact of his predecessor’s prolific use of presidential signing statements, President Obama issued his first statement setting forth his administration’s “constitutional concerns” with a federal law.
In a two-page memo that accompanied his signing of the $410 billion spending bill Wednesday, Obama delineated five areas where the Department of Justice has advised him of potential constitutional problems with the bill – limits on negotiating with foreign governments or organizations foreign affairs, authority to control the military, communications with Congress, requirements to seek approval from congressional committees, and instructions for submitting budget requests to Congress.
In what may be a sign of potential turf battles to come between the White House and Capitol Hill, Obama states that the spending bill’s instructions to seek Congressional committee approval before spending or reallocating funds “are impermissible forms of legislative aggrandizement.”
Therefore, “spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval [from the committees].”
Obama’s first presidential signing statement comes just two days after he issued a separate memo that announced the principles his administration will use when identifying potential constitutional problems with legislation he signs.
Monday’s memo also directed his administration to seek guidance from Attorney General Eric Holder before relying on any presidential signing statement issued before Monday in order to disregard or refuse to comply with any provision of a federal statute.
The net effect of Obama’s directive Monday is to prohibit his administration from utilizing any signing statements issued by George W. Bush – and any prior president – without first getting the okay from Holder.
“In appropriately limited circumstances,” Obama wrote Monday, signing statements “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.”