Past and Present: Presidential Signing Statements

Though it is often taken for granted, one of the most important measures of an effective president is a healthy respect for the constitutional limits of the office. Not only are constitutional limits and the separation of powers placed on the different branches of government to ensure that one branch does not dominate government policy, but they are also meant to enable effective policy and foster good government. Having become common practice since the latter half of the 20th century and with the most recent past administration having issued them to an unprecedented degree, presidential signing statements are an important and pertinent issue to investigate to assess the strength of our democracy.

In the coming months, I will endeavor to cast light upon the origins of presidential signing statements as well as their frequency, causes for use, and the overall outcome of past uses of signing statements. There has been a great deal of scholarship and research produced about signing statements in recent years, as well as much public debate about the legality of the measure. It will be a considerable task to synthesize the arguments and data about the issue into a comprehensive statement about the practice, but it is an important debate and worthy of attention especially since it no longer commands the attention of the mass media and American public as it once did. Due to the uniquely high frequency of presidential signing statements during the presidency of George W. Bush, I will most likely focus on his administration to draw out conclusions of their importance and impact on American policy. An interesting area I hope to cover in my research and analysis will be the current opinions of Americans of presidential signing statements. With then-candidate Obama, among others, having campaigned against the usage of signing statements, I will see if he has kept true to his campaign rhetoric and what relationship we can expect from future administrations with the practice.


About mcclwa8

Wake Forest, Class of 2012 History and Political Science Major Research Topic: Presidential Signing Statements
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