Congress is set to debate stem cell research this week and Pres. Bush is set to use his veto power for the first time in his Presidency. More on that misleading statement later and I would suggest you read on because if you think it’s a big deal that Pres. Bush has never vetoed a single bill sent to him by Congress, you are living in exactly the same kind of delusional dreamworld as the President himself. But first, let’s get to the subject of stem cell research.
Whether you are for or against stem cell research really isn’t at issue here. Literally. The President of the United States, George W. Bush, has decided once again to chart the course of American lives by making a completely unilateral based on misinformation and incomplete information and, ultimately the wishes and desires of those who would turn American into even more of a Christian theocracy than it already is. The bill before Congress would would simply expand federal aid for stem cell research. Opponents insist that stem cell research is immoral; never mind the immorality of not being able to cure diseases because the research needed interferes with one’s religious views. Recent polls suggest that 70% of American support federally funding stem cell research that might result in a cure for such diseases as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Almost every reputable scientist in the world supports global warming as a fact. Only slightly less support stem cell research. The majority of lawmakers-both Democrats and Republicans-support the bill. Nobel laureates have come out in support of the bill. Unfortunately for America, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Karl Rove do not support federally funded stem cell research. Therefore, it will be vetoed by Pres. George W. Bush. Pres. Bush came out strongly in opposition to stem cell research when his pollsters determined that his conservative base was strongly against it. In 2001 Pres. Bush halted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research as he compared it to abortion. Since then, new research has stripped away any hint of that comparison being valid, but we all know how stubbornly Pres. Bush likes to stick to an idea, regardless of how much evidence is produced to invalidate t]it.
Just as Pres. Bush knew more about how many weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq than all those weapons inspectors who returned from Iraq with the bad news that they couldn’t find any, he also knows more about the intricacies of stem cell research than all the doctors in the world. He even knows more than the doctor who is the majority leader of the Senate. So Congress will probably pass the stem cell research legislation and Pres. Bush will for the first time in his presidency pull out his pen and veto legislation.
About that first veto.
The Presidential veto is one of the key parts of the whole balance of power structure that ensures neither the executive, legislative or judicial branches of the US government runs mad with power. The veto is available for when a President doesn’t like a popular piece of Congressional legislation. He can simply undo the legislation with a stroke of the pen. Of course, the balance of power then shifts back to the Congress who can override that veto provided they have enough votes. The veto override requires more than the simple majority that sent the legistation to the President. It’s a good system. There’s only one problem. It has a loophole.
At least, that’s what President Bush thinks. Vice President Dick Cheney was in the Nixon White House during the Watergate years and fumed until his face turned red at the way Congress eroded the power of the President. He vowed that when George W. Bush reached the White House that topping the agenda was the redistribution of power back to the executive branch. Pres. Bush will for the first time use his veto power to undo the stem cell research legislation. But the truth is that Pres. Bush has already undone over 700 pieces of legislation sent to him by Congress.
The way he has done this is by what is known as a signing statement. A signing statement basically is an official document that is entered into the federal registrar in which the President defines his own legal interpretation of the legislation he signed. In the mind of President Bush, this perfectly legal power gives him the right to effectively ignore any part of a law he deems unworthy.
Here is just one example of how Pres. Bush signed legislation he disagreed with rather than veto, and then override the legislation without having to send it back to Congress. Following the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, Congress passed a series of new bills and regulations regarding how prisoners could be treated. Pres. Bush signed the bills into law, suggesting for all practical purposes that he agreed with the provisions contained therein. In private, however, Pres. Bush put his pen to a signing statement that gives the President the power to completely ignore every single provision of the law he had previously signed!
This is not to suggest that no other President has ever used signing statements to get around the problem of the veto. The problem in using a veto is that the bill must go back to Congress, where it can be publicly overridden, thereby making the President look weak. A signing statement cannot be overriden. At least not by Congress. As I said, other Presidents have made use of their signing statement power. But none nearly as much as President Bush, and certainly none have used it with the same understanding of its scope as Pres. Bush. Here’s how the signing statement works according to Pres. Bush. Congress passes legislation. Pres. Bush signs it into law. He then put his pen to a signing statement that either rejects the law or that turns it into something that is merely advisory. Therefore the law either becomes annulled, as if it never was signed in the first place, or it becomes merely advice, carrying no more legal weight than if you or I had walked into the Oval Office and made a casual suggestion to the President of the United States.
The fact of that matter is that many legal scholars are concerned that Pres. Bush has created a bona fide constitutional crisis through his uniqe and imaginative interpretation of how a signing statement is supposed to work. During just his first term in office, by not using his veto power and relying on his signing statement power instead, Pres. Bush raised over 500 constitutional challenges to legislation that he signed into law. It certainly should lead one to question why a President would sign so many pieces of legislation into law if he thought they were that incredibly misguided, but apparently it hasn’t. At least, it hasn’t to the members of Congress whose legislative actions have been undone by this President.
So, Congress will go about their business this week and pass stem cell research legislation that President Bush finds misguided and just plain wrong and apparently immoral, or at least politically incovenient, and the only difference this time around will be that he publicly undoes the legislation.
You might want to ask yourselves why when you hear this news.