A Matter of Direction: The Reagan Administration, the Signing Statement, and Legislative History

20 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2007


In 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese announced to a gathering at the National Press Club that a deal with the West Publishing Company to have the signing statement published in the United States Code, Congressional and Administrative News. The announcement mostly went unnoticed until November 1986, when the administration used the signing statement to change an important part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Following that event, a flurry of articles appeared in law journals assessing whether the signing statement was constitutionally permissible and whether it would influence judicial decisionmaking. Little attention was paid then, as now, regarding what influenced the unusual move in the first place.

In this paper, using information gleaned from interviews with Reagan Justice Department officials as well as documents released December 2005 in preparation for the Alito confirmation hearings, I discuss what external circumstances likely influenced the decision and I dispel the argument that the primary motivation was to influence judges. Instead, the signing statement was designed first to influence executive branch agents.

Keywords: Signing Statement, Reagan administration, Legislative History

JEL Classification: K00, K30

Suggested Citation

Kelley, Christopher S., A Matter of Direction: The Reagan Administration, the Signing Statement, and Legislative History. William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Forthcoming, Bill of Rights Journal, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=992333

Christopher S. Kelley (Contact Author)

Miami University of Ohio ( email )

Oxford, OH 45056
United States

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