Presidential signing statements | US government and civics | Khan Academy | Summary and Q&A

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December 28, 2017
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Presidential signing statements | US government and civics | Khan Academy

TL;DR

Presidential signing statements are statements issued by presidents when signing a bill into law, explaining their reasoning and occasionally highlighting constitutional concerns, although they are not legally binding.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why do presidents issue signing statements if they are not legally binding?

While signing statements are not legally binding, they serve political purposes, such as rallying support from the base. Additionally, they signal to the Executive Branch and Congress that the president may not follow certain parts of the law deemed unconstitutional.

Q: What is the purpose of the explainer section in signing statements?

The explainer section in signing statements allows the president to express support for the law and highlight its benefits, providing justification for signing it.

Q: Can the president declare parts of a law unconstitutional?

Although presidents can state that specific parts of a law are unconstitutional in signing statements, it is not within their authority to officially declare laws unconstitutional. It serves as a signal but does not hold legal weight.

Q: Are there any documented instances of signing statements challenging congressional authority?

Yes, signing statements from both President George W. Bush and President Obama have contested certain aspects of laws that they believed encroached upon executive power or legislative aggrandizement.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Presidential signing statements were rare until modern times, with Ronald Reagan popularizing their use.

  • These statements serve as explanations for why the president is signing a law and may point out flaws or unconstitutional aspects.

  • They act as a signal to the Executive Branch and Congress regarding potential disregard for parts of the law due to constitutional concerns.

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