Presidential Signing Statements: A New Perspective

35 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2016  

Christopher S. Yoo

University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication; University of Pennsylvania - School of Engineering and Applied Science

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

This Article offers a new perspective on Presidents’ use of signing statements. Following the dichotomy reflected in the literature, I will analyze signing statements raising constitutional objections and those offering interpretive guidance for ambiguous provisions separately. With respect to constitutional interpretation of statutes by the executive branch, Presidents have long asserted the authority and obligation to consider constitutionality when executing statutes. The widespread acceptance of the President’s power to construe statutes to avoid constitutional problems and to refuse to defend the constitutionality of or to enforce statutes in appropriate cases confirms the propriety of this conclusion. If these fairly uncontroversial forms of executive review are permissible, the arguments against signing statements amount to nothing more than objections to the form in which constitutional review is exercised. Indeed, when the objections are constitutional in nature, the signing statement does little work itself, as it is the Constitution itself rather than the signing statement that invalidates the statute, and there are clear benefits to announcing the constitutional interpretation that will be applied to the statute at the time of enactment.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, Signing Statements, Statutory Interpretation, Executive Branch, Discretion, Invalidation, Veto Power, Equal Dignity Principle, Departmentalism, Coordinate Construction

Suggested Citation

Yoo, Christopher S., Presidential Signing Statements: A New Perspective (2016). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 164, P. 1801, 2016; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-45. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2872099

Christopher S. Yoo (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.upenn.edu/faculty/csyoo/

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )

3620 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6220
United States
(215) 746-8772 (Phone)

University of Pennsylvania - School of Engineering and Applied Science ( email )

3330 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6309
United States
(215) 746-8772 (Phone)

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