I have heard that George W. Bush tried to alter the power of the presidency by using a theory that had never been implemented. The person who told me this fact added that this theory violates checks and balances, as the president must sign or veto legislation and cannot alter legislation to fit the chief executive needs.

Can anybody explain what this theory is and how it would have worked and how it is different from the veto power?

closed as off-topic by K Dog, user1530, sabbahillel, Alexei, bytebuster Feb 6 '17 at 20:58

  • This question does not appear to be about governments, policies and political processes within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    Are you asking about the line item veto? – Affable Geek Oct 18 '13 at 15:41
  • @Yves what specifically was your friend referring to? What actions in particular? – Avi Oct 18 '13 at 15:47
  • 1
    Shouldn't you ask the person that told you that 'fact'? – user1530 Oct 18 '13 at 19:25
  • @DA., sorry, he died. – Yves Dubois Oct 21 '13 at 7:50
  • @Affable, how about unitary executive theory? If you agree, could you post an answer which explains in simple terms what this theory says? – Yves Dubois Oct 21 '13 at 9:01

I think you're referring to Presidential Signing Statements.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, there was a controversy over the President's use of signing statements, which critics charged was unusually extensive and modified the meaning of statutes. The practice predates the Bush administration, however, and has since been continued by the Obama administration. In July 2006, a task force of the American Bar Association stated that the use of signing statements to modify the meaning of duly enacted laws serves to "undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers".

Effectively, the President writes a signing statement to the executive branch saying "This is how we're going to interpret and implement this law" as he signs the bill. This clarification is a good thing if the bill is ambiguous or potentially conflicts with some other law or Constitutional provision. But when the directive reaches the level of "Don't bother doing this", it's effectively legislating. (Not that that is actually an example, as far as I know).

  • To clarify - this didn't start at Bush. Clinton signed over 2x the signing statements more than Bish Jr, and the first statement was signed as far back as James Monroe's term – user4012 Oct 23 '13 at 19:52
  • @DVK - True. They have been in use for a very long time, and Clinton used them more than GWB. However, GWB used them for editing purposes more than Clinton. From the article: President Clinton... [issued] 381 statements, 70 of which (18%) raised constitutional or legal objections. President George W. Bush... [issued] 152 signing statements, 118 of which (78%) contain some type of challenge or objection. – Bobson Oct 23 '13 at 20:04
  • Or, perhaps I should say "controversial editing". I don't actually know what the other 82% of Clinton's or 22% of Bush's were. They may just not have been controversial, but still just as altering. – Bobson Oct 23 '13 at 21:02
  • according to this article, Obama actually issues about the same # of challenges as Bush, just compressed into fewer bills. They didn't go into Clinton details, unfortunately – user4012 Oct 24 '13 at 16:40

This sounds like Line-Item vetos

Bill Clinton had the ability to line-item veto in Line-Item Veto Act of 1996, but that law was struck down by the supreme court in 1998.

George W.Bush Did try to push congress to implement a line-item veto. A bill did make it through committee in 2006, but it never actually got through congress.

Presidents have been asking for a line-item veto for years, all the way back to Reagan but Clinton is the only one who ever actually had that power.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .