Saturday, July 01, 2006

It's About Time!

All I can say is it’s about time! It appears that Congress is finally waking up to the fact that this President and his administration have seriously crossed the line. In fact it seems that both Congress and the Supreme Court have woken up to smell the coffee. If you are a frequent reader of this Blog, then you are all too familiar with my position on the Presidents unprecedented abuse of executive authority. If you too are concerned about the Presidents assault on the Constitution and Congresses abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, then recent news out of Washington should provide you with some relief.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it was reviewing the Presidents questionable use of signing statements when signing new bills into law. These statements have become a primary tool for the President to subvert his duty and responsibility to uphold U.S. laws passed by Congress. President Bush has issued over 750 signing statements since taking office, often claiming the right not to enforce laws passed by Congress that he feels will infringe upon his presidential authority. This is obviously problematic because the President is responsible for enforcing the laws passed by Congress and to respect the separation of powers as outlined in the Constitution. However, President Bush consistently acts as though he is above the law and his aggressive use of these signing statements is evidence of that fact. For the record, President Bush is not the only executive to have issued signing statements. However, it is the manner in which President Bush uses these signing statements that is unprecedented. In most cases President Bush’s signing statements state that he would refuse to enforce part of a law, specifically if it conflicts with his unprecedented claim of presidential power. These statements are wide ranging and include a congressional ban on torture, affirmative action rules, protections for the integrity of scientific research and the protection of government whistleblowers. These statements and the actions of this administration are in blatant defiance of the constitutional powers granted to Congress and undermine the systems of checks and balances outlined therein. The President is using signing statements as a way around the use of a presidential veto. In fact, this President has not vetoed a single law passed by Congress. If the Congress passes a law that the President does not like, he simply states that he has no intention of executing the law as written. News flash Mr. President, neither the Constitution nor federal law provides you the right to choose which provisions of the laws passed by Congress you will enforce. Civics 101.

Also this week, the House Judiciary Committee adopted a “resolution of inquiry” to formally pursue any and all documents held specifically by the president and attorney general relating to warrantless requests made by the NSA and other Federal agencies to telecommunication providers regarding records of customers calls. House Resolution 819 requests the president and directs the attorney general to submit all documents relating to requests made without warrant by the NSA or other Federal agency to telephone providers…for access to telephone communications of persons within the United States, other than those authorized by federal electronic surveillance statutes. Bravo! The Presidents approval of the warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the NSA violates the unequivocal restrictions on domestic spying as outlined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and reflects the Presidents determination to ignore the rule of law and the Constitution.

Finally, the Supreme Court ended its term by striking down the administrations use of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. The court ruled that the system of military tribunals established by the Bush administration to try detainees violates the Geneva conventions and U.S. law. The administration’s use of these tribunals is consistent with a larger pattern of the President’s abuse of executive power and judicial review of the administrations conduct is long over due. The court ruled 5-3 that the administration would either have to come up with new procedures to prosecute detainees or it will have to release them from military custody. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority stated that “the tribunals must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trail protections that have been recognized by customary international law” and that “the military commission at issue is not expressly authorized by any congressional act.” In a concurring opinion, Justice Stephen Bayer wrote that Congress has not issued the executive a “blank check”, stating that Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. The court also establishes that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals involving “enemy combatants” held overseas in military custody. The “enemy combatant” designation, according to the Bush administration, means the suspect can be held without charges in a military prison without the protections of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as the right to counsel. The ruling means that the administration will now have to adopt a military commission system for trying accused terrorists that meets international standards.
These developments are a welcome step in the right direction, as Congress and the Court confirmed at least in part that our country is to be governed by the rule of law not the rule of a man. However, we are not out of the woods just yet. Though Congress is to be applauded for finally confronting the President on his unparalleled grab for power, it too must be held accountable to finish what it started. It must restore the delicate balance of power and the system of checks and balances as outlined in the Constitution and never abdicate their responsibility to the will of one man. I’ll say it again, it’s about time…now keep it up!

1 comment:

Brad said...

Admittedly, it's a pretty good start, but we still have a LONG way to go to accountability.