Presidential Signing Statements: Constitutional and Institutional Implications [January 4, 2012] [open pdf - 366KB]
"Presidential signing statements are official pronouncements issued by the President contemporaneously to the signing of a bill into law that, in addition to commenting on the law generally, have been used to forward the President's interpretation of the statutory language; to assert constitutional objections to the provisions contained therein; and, concordantly, to announce that the provisions of the law will be administered in a manner that comports with the administration's conception of the President's constitutional prerogatives. While the history of presidential issuance of signing statements dates to the early 19th century, the practice has become the source of significant controversy in the modern era as Presidents have increasingly employed the statements to assert constitutional objections to congressional enactments. The number and scope of such assertions in the George W. Bush Administration in particular gave rise to extensive debate over the issuance of signing statements, with the American Bar Association (ABA) publishing a report declaring that these instruments are 'contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers' when they 'claim the authority or state the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law ... or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress.'"
CRS Report for Congress, RL33667