Wow: Obama issues "signing statement" rejecting budget cuts to White House "czars"

You didn’t seriously think he was going to abide by the will of Congress, did you? Such is The One’s personal awesomeness that he can order the bombing of Libya without so much as a heads up to the legislature in advance. Surely he wasn’t about to be tripped up by a duly enacted bill that dares to cut off the money he uses for his auxiliary cabinet.

I have to say, of all the Bush policies recycled by Obama, this one’s my favorite just because it’s such a gratuitous offense to his base. You can spin many of the others on expediency grounds — he had to ramp up the drone strikes in Pakistan to crack down on terrorists, he had to keep Gitmo military tribunals going because the Republicans tied his hands — but this one’s pretty much a pure no-apologies betrayal. The bad news: Legally, it’s highly dubious. The good news: It should provoke another classic what-happened-to-the-Barack-I-knew Andrew Sullivan lament.

One rider – Section 2262 — de-funds certain White House adviser positions – or “czars.” The president in his signing statement declares that he will not abide by it.

“The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” he wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it. Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President’s ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”…

In other words: we know what you wanted that provision to do, but we don’t think it’s constitutional, so we will interpret it differently than the way you meant it.

Remember, one of the big advantages of using “czars” is that they perform cabinet-type functions without being subjected to cabinet-type confirmation hearings. Which means, in this case, not only is he reserving his right to skirt congressional scrutiny of important appointees, he’s reserving his right to force Congress to pay for it by ignoring their own funding strictures. He’s been using signing statements for a long time now, but I’m not sure there’s ever been an example this egregious.

Here’s your must-watch video of the day, from the thick of the campaign in May 2008. I’m going to call it, “Just Words.” Man, that Sullivan post is going to be epic. Exit question: If Congress sends him a bill funding the mission in Libya but demanding that he seek authorization within 60 days, is there any reason at this point to think he wouldn’t issue a signing statement accepting the money but rejecting the authorization requirement?