Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 5, 2006

White House issues DHS approps signing statement

Filed under: DHS News,Privacy and Security — by Christian Beckner on October 5, 2006

The signing statement for FY 2007 DHS appropriations was released on the White House website yesterday, and was criticized in this AP story today. The story discusses how the signing statement will ignore a Congressional mandate regarding the issuance of reports by the DHS privacy officer. It should be noted that this isn’t really news – in fact, this exact same provision was included in last year’s signing statement for FY 2006 appropriations. The main difference this year is increased public and media attention to signing statements.

This year’s signing statement also indicates that the Administration will ignore the requirements that the director of FEMA have at least five years experience:

Section 503(c) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as amended by section 611 of the Act, provides for the appointment and certain duties of the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Section 503(c)(2) vests in the President authority to appoint the Administrator, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, but purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the President may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office. The executive branch shall construe section 503(c)(2) in a manner consistent with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Also, section 503(c)(4) purports to regulate the provision of advice within the executive branch and to limit supervision of an executive branch official in the provision of advice to the Congress. The executive branch shall construe section 503(c)(4) in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to require the opinions of heads of departments and to supervise the unitary executive branch. Accordingly, the affected department and agency shall ensure that any reports or recommendations submitted to the Congress are subjected to appropriate executive branch review and approval before submission.

Whoever it was that decided to include this provision in the signing statement must be politically tone-deaf. Thirteen months after Hurricane Katrina and the debacle with Mike Brown, why be such a stickler on this point, even if you think you’re correct on legal terms? It’s doubtful that the current Administration would again nominate someone who was underqualified, and a statement like this accomplishes only one thing: pissing off Congress.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 7, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

The signing statements are meaningless if the Supreme Court of the United States can be taken at its word. The Court for the last 25 years has minimized reliance on even the most formal legislative history as long as the words of the statute being intrepreted are clear. Since the case involving two separate enactments, supposedly reconciled by Speaker of the House Certification is now wending its way through the judicial process we will soon see if Sutherland’s aphorism on statutory construction that “Congress is presumed to know its own mind” still prevails. Apparently reading and then voting is too much for the current talent pool in Congress and the Senate. Both parties stand convicted.

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