President Obama is taking a hit from fellow Democrats on another issue -- the use of signing statements on bills passed by Congress.
In a letter today to Obama, four senior House Democrats scolded him, saying he is being too much like former President George W. Bush in using the statements to ignore legislation he thinks oversteps the Constitution, the Associated Press reports.
The House members said they were "surprised" and "chagrined" by Obama's statement in June accompanying a war spending bill that he would ignore restrictions placed on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The letter was signed by Representatives David Obey of Wisconsin; chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; and Nita Lowey and Gregory Meeks of New York, who chair subcommittees on those panels.
Congressional Democrats were harshly critical of Bush's signing statements, which they argued violated the constitutional separation of powers. Critics contended Bush used such statements to expand his power, particularly on national security, by ignoring the intent or certain provisions of bills properly passed by Congress. (Charlie Savage, then with the Globe, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for documenting Bush's actions."
Obama also assailed Bush on the issue during the presidential campaign.
In March, he vowed not to use signing statements to disregard parts of laws because he disagrees on policy grounds, but only when he strongly believes provisions are unconstitutional. "There is no doubt that the practice of issuing such statements can be abused. Constitutional signing statements should not be used to suggest that the president will disregard statutory requirements on the basis of policy disagreements," wrote Obama.
But he has issued a series of signing statements since, though not nearly as many as Bush.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.