White House: Obama's signing statements 'entirely consistent'

Barack Obama the presidential candidate did not disagree with the practice of signing statements but rather the way former President George W. Bush used them, the White House said Saturday after Obama as president issued another signing statement of his own.

The president raised eyebrows Friday when he signed the hard-won 2011 spending bill and added a statement that implied he would ignore some parts of the bill including language defunding the president's use of four czars.

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Bush issued hundreds of often controversial signing statements during his two terms, and Obama, while running for office in 2008, blasted Bush for doing so.

In 2008, Obama responded to a question asking if he would promise not to use signing statements by saying yes and blasting Bush's efforts "to accumulate more power in the presidency."

"That's not part of his power, but this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he goes along," Obama said. "I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama's use of signing statements as president is "actually entirely consistent with what he's said and with our policy."

Carney pointed to a 2007 interview Obama gave to then-Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage, who won a Pulitzer Prize that same year for his reporting on Bush's use of signing statements.

In that interview, Obama said that signing statements have "been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson."

"While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability," Obama told the Globe.

The president told Savage he would "use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law." 

"The problem with [the Bush] administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the president does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation."

Obama said that Bush's use of signing statements 1,100 times was a "clear abuse of that prerogative."

"No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that," Obama said.

Former White House press secretary Dana Perino, who took to Twitter Friday afternoon to voice her displeasure at the lack of outrage over Obama's signing statements, said Saturday she was more appalled by the media double standard.

"I'm not at all bothered by the practice, which presidents have used for over 200 years," Perino said in an email. "But when the Democrats and left wing came after President Bush relentlessly, a reporter [Savage] won a national press award for his 'dogged' coverage, and the current president campaigned against the practice making promises he doesn't keep - the media just shrugs it off as either it is a) not a big deal to them if President Obama does it or b) unremarkable that he has backtracked on yet another issue."

She continued: "We defended a lot of principles that didn't make for easy soundbites and rah-rahs from even our supporters — but we didn't do one thing for political expediency and good headlines and then change our position and pretend that was principled."