The President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”
Last week, a bill led by Ted Cruz unanimously passed the House and Senate, and recently came to the President’s desk for signature.
Cruz quickly and quietly worked to unveil a proposal in recent days that would ban Iran’s recently appointed ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States. He spent last weekend negotiating with New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat and a vocal critic of the Iranian government. Over the course of those conversations, the senators agreed to tweak Cruz’s bill to make it amenable to Democrats, who on Monday night passed the bill unanimously and without debate.
These days, getting a bill passed by either chamber is enough of an accomplishment for most lawmakers. But Cruz quickly identified a House sponsor, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who took up the cause and convinced House GOP leaders to bypass the committee process and allow for a quick vote. The measure passed unanimously on Thursday without debate as House lawmakers left town for a two-week recess.
President Obama, who felt the bill was outside the constitutional authority of Congress to enact, has signed the bill into law but signaled in a “signing statement” he will not enforce it in situations he deems improper.
“Nevertheless, as President [George H.W.] Bush also observed, “curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.” I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”
Whether Congress has invaded the constitutional province of the Executive with this bill is a question worth addressing, but the move by the President to sign the bill and not enforce it is just another example of how this administration continues to lean on enforcement discretion to achieve stated policy goals. In this case, the policy goal is likely the curtailment of Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means.
Moreover, the President’s “sign, state then sit” strategy with respect to legislation, like numerous other aspects of his presidency, is directly at odds with his 2008 campaign criticisms of previous administrations.
Obama frequently criticized President George W. Bush for such signing statements during his 2008 campaign. “Congress’s job is to pass legislation,” he said, as The Daily Beast recalled. “The president can veto it or he can sign it.”
Not only is the President turning his back on yet another campaign promise, he’s meeting one constitutionally questionable act from the legislature with another constitutionally questionable act from the Executive.
To borrow the President’s words, that’s not a “practical solution.”
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