March 11th, 2009
06:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama issues first signing statement

Obama issued his first presidential signing statement Wednesday.
Obama issued his first presidential signing statement Wednesday.

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.

Read: Obama's first signing statement

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.”

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Hammer

    I think that one thing has become clear is that Obama and his advisors have absolutely no idea what they are doing and with each move or statement that they make reinforces that belief.

    March 11, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  2. Maggie from Virginia

    Isn't it great to have a constitutional scholar in the oval office?

    March 11, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  3. Keith in Austin

    So many lies and broken promises!!!

    March 11, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  4. strong

    Surprise ! According to the picture here, Barack is left handed, just like me.

    I guess he can't be all that bad.

    March 11, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  5. phoenix86

    Following in Bush's footsteps in this one.

    Does Obama have an original thought in his head?

    He should just resign and let Pelosi take over, she's running the show anyway.

    The joke continues...

    March 11, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  6. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    “...spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval [from the committees].”

    Technically, Obama's right–once a bill has been signed by the President, it becomes the sole responsibility of the Executive Branch–of which the President is head–to implement. If Congress wants any further control over that implementation, its only recourse is to go through the entire legislative process again, supplanting the original law, and either hope the President is willing to sign it or to over-ride his veto.

    March 11, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  7. Typical White Person

    Wasn't this supposed to be posted on the web for 5 days before he signed?

    March 11, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  8. No Hillary = No Obama

    Legislative aggrandizement is needed to off-set Presidential aggrandizement – both the position as well as the person occupying the position.

    March 11, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  9. Michael

    The $410 billion spending bill,if vetoed would've got in the way and the Republicans would've got there wish to slow the President down.Out of 35 who voted no 28 of them where the Republicans who have earmarks in this spending bill.People wake up the Republicans lied to us for 8 years.

    March 11, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  10. Eye-opener

    Great job Mr. President!! you get an "A+" for the time you've been in office.

    so much BETTER than Bush.

    March 11, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  11. Ray Fisher

    It is a very unfortunate sign when a President must compromise his principles in order to avoid political showdowns with uncooperative political hacks particularly within his own party, The budget bill alone was signed into law with earmarks which time did not allow to be removed without comprising vital government functions. He will be criticized I have no doubt but he is making the brave critical choices in the nation's best interests. I pray the future will treat him well for dealing with our crisis as a gentleman and without excuses!!!

    March 11, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    It looks like Obama has troubles with parts of Congressional actions when it comes to constitutionality. His is a liberal interpretaion of the constitution and Bush was a conservative interpretaion.

    March 11, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  13. TCM

    Obama doesn't sign papers, Chuck Norris tells him when to sign papers....

    March 11, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  14. John

    I have never seen such an all out attack on a new President, which started even before he was in office.

    I remember what happened to people, magazines, papers, etc, who spoke out against "W".

    Obama has said that this budget is the the last of an era. I take him at his word.

    March 11, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  15. John

    I have never seen such an all out attack on a new President, which started even before he was in office.

    I remember what happened to people, magazines, papers, etc, who spoke out against "W".

    Obama has said that this budget is the the last of an era. I take him at his word.

    At east this guy is thinking and listening to good advisors. We are in a really difficult situation. Thankfully now we have a smart president.

    March 11, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  16. Josh

    Sounds like a little doublespeak to me.

    March 11, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  17. David

    Wonder when he might consider living up to his campaign promises, like no ear marks, allowing time for public comment, transparency.....?

    March 11, 2009 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  18. Jim in Florida

    Goodness, media "cverage" doesn't miss anything Obama does, or does it.

    While over at OMB the director laments a possible overload of a website, http://www.grants.gov could "delay the stimulus"

    Let me see if I understand the Obama Administration.

    750 plus BILLION dollars going ourt the window and these slugs can't spring a few thousand dollars to add some web servers to the network to help out poor old http://www.grants.gov?

    Ahhhh, but its the Obama administration, the Administration of All Things, and I thought they said that included all things technology too.

    March 11, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  19. DH

    Are we really improving our position with these new "proclamations?" How much of our military will be devolved with the reductions being taken? What part of this country will we leave open to attack (physical, electronic, etc) with these reductions?

    I voted for Mr Obama in good faith. That we would see a reduction in Pork spending, that there would be ethics in place – to this point I am not seeing it. I am seeing the same old abuses, and am greatly concerned we are moving to a much too socialist position.

    Mr Obama was not elected to do what ever he wants with our hard earned dollars (or lack there of). He was elected to move our country and our government to a position where we could actually trust that our politicians/government would be more trustworthy. I hear more concern now than ever before about where we are headed.

    I am one who is truly concerned.

    March 11, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. susan

    The comments For Chuck Norris were closed so I'll write it here. Of course he wants Texas back. His real name is Carlos after all.

    March 11, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  21. george

    Looks like we gonna post this all week. What are republicans gonna drum on next?

    March 11, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  22. Harry

    Where is luo dobbs to ram this?

    March 11, 2009 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  23. Andy

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!

    March 11, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  24. George Jackson

    I think this is a huge statement on his part. By outlining certain concerns within this bill and hopefully future bills the President will impose certain restrictions against himself, or dare I say he might leave himself no wiggle room if he ever finds himself in such a situation that needs wiggle room,

    March 11, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
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