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On March 27th, President Trump signed the COVID-19 stimulus bill, the CARES Act, into law. This came after days of debate, where Democratic lawmakers insisted on the inclusion of oversight measures before they would agree to pass the bill. A few hours after signing the act into law, the White House released a signing statement, where the President takes issue with several provisions in the bill, and states his administration's intent to treat some of these provisions as advisory or hortatory.

Of particular interest is the following paragraph:

Section 4018 of Division A of the Act establishes a new Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) within the Department of the Treasury to manage audits and investigations of loans and investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under the Act. Section 4018(e)(4)(B) of the Act authorizes the SIGPR to request information from other government agencies and requires the SIGPR to report to the Congress “without delay” any refusal of such a request that “in the judgment of the Special Inspector General” is unreasonable. I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause, Article II, section 3.

This implies that the new position of Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) will be unable to perform their duties, as the President apparently reserves the right to supervise, and potentially suppress, any reports that the Special Inspector will attempt to make to Congress.

Is the President able to effectively nullify these provisions of the bill unilaterally, or does this signing statement have no legal weight until tested in the courts? Are any oversight mechanisms aside from this Special Investigator available to Congress?

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Signing statements do not have the force of law. Most often signing statements are used to signify how the President will interpret and enforce the law

For example, in President Obama's signing statement for the [National Defense Authorization Act], he explained a few reasons why he chose to sign the bill (it authorizes funding for important national defense programs, etc.), then went on to point out a few sections of the bill that he viewed as unconstitutional. He then stated, "My Administration will interpret them [some of the disputed sections] to avoid the constitutional conflict."

In other words, signing statements are often just a different way to enact an Executive Order.

Going back to this bill, the relevant portion would be

I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause, Article II, section 3.

This doesn't nullify the law, it simply says the SIGPR should not report to Congress without reporting to the President first. This does provide Trump with a preview of any report and a potential to influence the SIGPR, but there's no easy way to stop this since the SIGPR is part of the Executive Branch. Nowhere is Trump stating that the SIGPR is not to report to Congress at all (which would be a direct violation of the law).

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    I would add that, in case of disputed interpretation, it's up to the Supreme Court to decide the answer, but only in review of a concrete, actual case, not in a hand-wavy generalized fashion. – jpaugh Apr 3 at 23:08

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