Did Democrats argue that Congress can hide legislation from the President?

posted at 11:44 am on May 22, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I’d put this far above the silly controversy over signing statements. According to House minority whip Roy Blunt, the Democrats made more than one mistake in failing to include a large section of the farm bill Congress sent to the White House. They argued that the omission did not make the bill invalid, and that Congress can choose to send only portions of bills for a presidential signature or veto.

Needless to say, this rather creative view of open government prompted a response from Blunt. He sent a memo to the entire Republican caucus that outlines the dangers of this approach:

What Did They Know, When Did They Know It, and What Did They Do About It?:

Ø It appears the Democrat Leadership was informed by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel and the Committee on Agriculture that the bill sent to and vetoed by the President was erroneous PRIOR to consideration of the veto override.

Ø Despite this knowledge and despite requests from staff from the Republican Leader’s office, the Democrat Leadership proceeded with the veto override of a bill they knew was not the bill passed by both Houses of Congress.

Ø Importantly, there were opportunities to correct the enrollment error consistent with past practice and in a constitutionally sound manner if the Democrat Leadership had not rushed ahead with the veto override. Once they moved forward, however, they foreclosed those opportunities.

Ø When confronted on the House Floor by the Republican Leader, Whip, and Rules Ranking Member, the Majority Leader defended the Leadership’s actions and professed a constitutional theory that so long as both the House and Senate had passed the same language in didn’t matter whether or not the Speaker sent the whole bill passed by the House and Senate or simply parts of it to the President.

The Dangers of the Democrats’ New Theory:

Ø Under the theory espoused by the Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House can simply pick and chose (either overtly or as a result of mistake made by an enrolling clerk) which parts of final bills to send to the President. If she is uncomfortable with a provision that was included as part of a compromise she could in theory exclude it from the bill when she sends it to the President.

Ø Importantly, the Speaker’s decision to omit language if challenged by Members of the House through a question of privilege, can simply be tabled by the majority.

Who Pressured the Enrolling Clerk to Quickly Complete the Enrollment:

Ø In a memo prepared by the House Clerk on May 21, 2008, the Clerk asserts that part of the mistake was a result of a ten-year-old flawed enrolling process, yet she goes on to state that “During a review of this process, Enrolling Division staff expressed a concern in receiving direct calls from Leadership and the Committee to accelerate the enrolling process.” Who pressured the enrolling staff?

The balance of power in American government counts on an open process on legislation between Congress and the executive branch. That requires Congress to provide the President with a complete copy of bills to determine whether to sign or veto them. Any hidden provisions not submitted to the executive should render the entire legislation invalid.

Democrats had Republicans in trouble with their base for their votes on this bill. Instead of just taking their time and letting the GOP twist in the wind, they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with underhanded and potentially unconstitutional maneuvering.


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Comment pages: 1 2

673-page bill

It seems part of proper conduct of the office of the Presidency to veto any bill that one can’t read and consider thoughtfully, along with one’s Cabinet, over the course of ten days. Nor do I care that such a stipulation departs entirely from contemporary custom, for contemporary legislative customs seem largely to depart from good practices.

Kralizec on May 23, 2008 at 12:32 AM

Someone asked for a Pelosi, Super Genius photoshop. Here’s a quick one.

cannonball on May 22, 2008 at 6:33 PM

I love it! Thanks.

steveegg on May 23, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Nancy and Maxine seem to share the same malady.

Suppositoritist. They are thinking with their heads up their %^^.

The recent rash of this malady are manifested in illogical thought patterns, a misguided sense of superiority, opening their mouths to change feet, and more important thinking they really make a difference.

MSGTAS on May 23, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Senate voted to override… and will send the other 32 pages up as a seperate bill…

Wow… just wow…

Romeo13 on May 23, 2008 at 11:20 AM

I think Pres. Bush should demand, due to congressional improprieties, that each and every bill that was submitted to him by congress be reviewed for accuracy and voted on again. Once he finds even one other case of this malfeasance of office, he should hold the worlds biggest press conference and demand that those responsible appear before his justice department for sworn interviews.

TimothyJ on May 23, 2008 at 2:48 PM

Does anyone know the process for recall of an incompetent legislator?

onlineanalyst on May 22, 2008 at 10:36 PM

Catch them with an underage intern, catch them tapping their foot in a bathroom stall, that’s about it.
Drugs, suspect land deals, funneling projects to your husbands businesses, running your apartment as a gay “fun” house, stealing money and hiding it in a freezer, changing bills after they are voted on, doesn’t seem to work.

right2bright on May 23, 2008 at 3:23 PM

Flashback:

…she was a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.

Remember who the “she” mentioned here is?

Hint: She is running for President, and just happened to speak the word “assassinated” today.

Red Pill on May 23, 2008 at 8:18 PM

If the Legislature can deliver up only those portions of the bills that they choose to, then the President should be able to sign only those portions of the bills that he/she chooses to. This is effectively a line-item veto, and it occurs to me that there was a court case about this a few years ago…

ss396 on May 23, 2008 at 9:45 PM

volsense on May 22, 2008 at 4:35 PM
Red Pill on May 22, 2008 at 6:24 PM

Follow-up comment…have you noticed that Democrats inappropriately use the term “Swiftboated” whereas Republicans appropriately use the term “Borked”?

According to William Safire in The New York Times, the verb to bork is defined as “attack viciously a candidate or appointee, especially by misrepresentation in the media.”

Red Pill on May 23, 2008 at 10:23 PM

ss396 on May 23, 2008 at 9:45 PM

Indeed. We cannot allow this activity to stand.

Red Pill on May 23, 2008 at 10:25 PM

The question begs to be asked and that is WHY are Democrats going to such extents to even TRY to defend and rationalize such outrageous a deed as this? Do we now have a dictatorship in the Democrat “majority”? I think so.

S on May 24, 2008 at 12:44 AM

“Let’s hear it for the power!” – Pelosi’s exclamation upon taking the Speaker’s gavel.

Devil worship, probably.

S on May 24, 2008 at 12:58 AM

I wonder how many other times they’ve snuck in stuff after the fact. How would anybody know? NOBODY reads these things any more.

darwin-t on May 24, 2008 at 7:10 AM

McCain (or the moderator of the nxt debate!) should ask Obama if he condemns, denounces, renounces and repudiates Democratic House Leadership for this hoax upon the President and the Congress. Surely, this is Old Politics at its worst, no?

JM Hanes on May 24, 2008 at 1:02 PM

“Did Democrats argue that Congress can hide legislation from the President?” Forget Dubya…what about hiding legislation from The People; you know the ones who they ‘work’ for and ultimately ‘represent’?
Years from now these idiots will still be blaming Dubya for their own mistakes and omissions.

Christine on May 24, 2008 at 1:26 PM

Comment pages: 1 2