Dec 23, 2011 6 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
President Obama said Friday he will not be bound by at least 20 policy riders in the 2012 omnibus funding the government, including provisions pertaining to Guantanamo Bay and gun control.
After he signed the omnibus into law Friday, the White House released a concurrent signing statement saying Obama will object to portions of the legislation on constitutional grounds.
Signing statements are highly controversial, and their legality is disputed.
“I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress’s consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient,” Obama said in a statement as he signed the bill into law.
The signing statement says that on the issue of accused terrorist detainees, Obama will interpret and apply provisions that bar the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts.”
Obama also objected to Defense provisions in the bill that limit the president’s ability to put troops under foreign command and require 30 days advance notice to Congress for any use of the military which would involve more than $100,000 in construction costs.
The president also objected to a section aimed at blocking health, climate, auto policy and urban affairs “czars” from being employed by the White House and a provision that bars health officials from advocating for gun control. The signing statement also objects to a portion of the omnibus that limits funding for the Copyright Office.
The statement also objects to numerous unnamed provisions in the bill that would require executive branch officials to clear everyday spending decisions with appropriators.
Of these extra conditions, Obama writes, “our spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees.”
Obama also objected to 13 sections of the State department bill, arguing they limit his ability to conduct foreign policy. In particular he objected provisions that withhold funding from Middle East allies unless the administration reveals details on ongoing negotiations to Congress.
The 1,200-page omnibus funds all parts of the federal government except for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the science agencies. Those were funded by a smaller bill that passed Congress in November.
The signing of the spending bill caps a year of contentious spending battles that saw a near-government shutdown in April and a debt-rating downgrade in August as the U.S. nearly defaulted on its obligations when Congress threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.
That debt-ceiling debacle resulted in an agreement on spending caps that greatly smoothed passage of the omnibus.
The bill was not without incident, however, and last week the White House and the GOP had a mini-standoff about policy riders in the bill. The White House was able to get a ban on family travel to Cuba removed but did not get extra funding for Wall Street reform that it had been seeking.
The White House also gave up on a provision in the bill blocking District of Columbia-funded abortions.