Obama signs bill to keep government open, but protects 'czars'

President Obama signed into law on Friday the hard-fought legislation to fund government and keep it running through the end of September. 

The president signed the legislation based on the deal he negotiated last week with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that cuts nearly $40 billion from the government through the end of this fiscal year and advances several policy goals.

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But Obama took the key step of issuing a signing statement, a declaration of constitutional interpretation by a president of legislation he or she might sign into law. It essentially notified lawmakers that he would not abide by the section of the law defunding the position of four so-called "czars."

Obama has employed a good number of these informal policy advisers who aren't subject to Senate confirmation, drawing the ire of congressional Republicans and prompting them to include in their spending bill a provision barring the use of federal funds for Obama's healthcare, climate change, auto industry and urban affairs czars.

"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," Obama said in his signing statement. "Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives."


Obama also issued a statement strongly objecting to provisions in the legislation intended to bar the transfer of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the U.S., but did not go so far as to outright disregard the provisions. Rather, Obama said he wouldn't accept any expansion of those restrictions, and would seek the repeal of the ones included in the legislation.

The legislation sent to the president's desk was the product of late-night talks that took the government to the brink of shutdown last Friday and forced Boehner to rely on Democrats as well as his Republican majority in order to secure passage for the spending agreement. After the House approved it, the legislation sailed through the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

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