Here Come the Investigations

As soon as it became clear on Election Night last November that the Democrats were going to control Congress it became clear that 2007 would become the Year of the Congressional Investigation. After six years of the Bush presidency, the loyal opposition would finally have the votes in the House and Senate to demand answers to the pent-up questions they have had about key White House policies, from the war in Iraq to the legal war on terror. One month into the year of the Investigation, the Democrats haven't disappointed their supporters or surprised their foes.

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage has a great piece this morning on the launch of an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee into the Bush Administration's controversial penchant for attaching presidential "signing statements" to legislation. The key quote from the piece comes from the chairman of the Committee, the ageless John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich), who declared that "this is a constitutional issue that no self-respecting federal legislature should tolerate.... [we are going to] get to the bottom of this matter, and to be blunt, we are not going to take no for an answer."

Writing for the Hearst newspaper chain, Jennifer A. Dlouhy offered this: "Once viewed as little more than presidential news releases on bills, the so-called signing statements have taken on new significance in recent years because presidents have increasingly used them to express their views on the bills they sign into law.
Since he took office six years ago, Bush has issued about 150 signing statements, many of which challenge the very laws he is putting on the books. Estimates vary, but the American Bar Association reports that Bush has quibbled with at least 1,000 provisions of new laws that he signed."

Get ready for a huge dogfight over the statements. The White House will say it is merely doing what past administrations have done-- just doing it more often and more systematically. But there is so much distrust between the executive branch and Democrats in Congress that Conyers and Company won't take that answer at face value. And when Conyers says he is going to look into the laws that begat the signing statements to determine whether the White House actually is enforcing them as Congress intended all I can think about is Keith Jackson, the old football announcer: Who Nellie!

By Andrew Cohen |  February 1, 2007; 8:35 AM ET
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