Bush Undercut Balance By Increasing Executive Power

Bush Asserted Presidential Authority Over Congress And Resisted Judicial Review Of Executive Decisions. According to the Center for Public Integrity, “Either way, with its opposition to both judicial review of its decisions (regarding handling of detainees, for example) and assertions of authority over Congress (as seen through its signing statements and refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas), the Bush administration has pushed executive power to a level unseen for many years.” [Center for Public Integrity, 12/10/08]

Bush Used “Signing Statements” To Selectively Override Legislation. According to the New York Times, “Bush’s use of signing statements – official legal documents issued by a president the day he signs bills into law, instructing executive officials how to implement the statutes – led to fierce controversy. Bush frequently used signing statements to declare that provisions in the bills he was signing were unconstitutional constraints on executive power, claiming that the laws did not need to be enforced or obeyed as written. The laws he challenged included a torture ban and requirements that Congress be given detailed reports about how the Justice Department was using the counter-terrorism powers in the Patriot Act.” [New York Times, 3/9/09]

Bush “Broke All Records” With Number Of Signing Statements. According to the New York Times, “Dating back to the 19th century, presidents have occasionally signed a bill while declaring that one or more provisions were unconstitutional. Presidents began doing so more frequently starting with the Reagan administration. But Bush broke all records, using signing statements to challenge about 1,200 bill sections over his eight years in office, about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined, according to data compiled by Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio.” [New York Times, 3/9/09]

Bush And Cheney Sought To “Reclaim” Increased Presidential Authority. According to the Washington Post, “The clash over the secret domestic spying program is one slice of a broader struggle over the power of the presidency that has animated the Bush administration. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to office convinced that the authority of the presidency had eroded and have spent the past five years trying to reclaim it. From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney’s encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. With few exceptions, Congress and the courts have largely stayed out of the way, deferential to the argument that a president needs free rein, especially in wartime.” [Washington Post, 12/21/05]

Bush Administration “Asserted Its War-Making Authority” With Controversial Measures. According to the Washington Post, “Even before the NSA surveillance program, the Bush administration has asserted its war-making authority in detaining indefinitely U.S. citizens as enemy combatants, denying prisoners access to lawyers or courts, rejecting in some cases the applicability of the Geneva Conventions, expanding its interrogation techniques to include harsher treatment and establishing secret terrorist prisons in foreign countries.” [Washington Post, 12/21/05]

Democrats And Republicans Criticized Bush’s Authorization Of Eavesdropping Program. According to the Washington Post, “But the disclosure of Bush’s eavesdropping program has revived the issue, and Congress appears to be growing restive about surrendering so much of its authority. Democrats and even key Republicans maintain Bush went too far — and may have even violated the law — by authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens’ overseas telephone calls in search of terrorist plots without obtaining warrants from a secret intelligence court.” [Washington Post, 12/21/05]