Lawyers Group Admonishes Bush for Writing Signing Statements

The American Bar Association on Tuesday approved a resolution condemning President Bush's practice of writing exceptions to legislation he signs into law.

Delegates, representing 410,000 members, at the ABA's annual meeting approved the resolution objecting to any president using bill signing statements as a way of diluting or changing laws rather than using an outright veto.

Bush has vetoed only one bill, on stem cell research, but written exceptions to some 800 legislative provisions, more than all previous presidents combined.

The Bush statements say the president reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.

"The constitution says the president has two choices: either sign the bill or veto it. And if you sign it, you can't have your hand behind your back with your fingers crossed," said Michael Greco, the ABA's outgoing president.

A call Tuesday to the White House was not immediately returned.

The bar delegates urged Congress to require the president to promptly submit copies of any signing statements, along with a report giving the legal basis for his objections.

The resolution also proposes that Congress create a system allowing courts to review any claim by the president that he has the authority to disregard or decline to enforce a law he signs or interpret the law in a different way than Congress had intended.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., submitted a bill last month seeking to ensure that signing statements aren't used to rewrite legislation or veto parts of bills.