Question 4

Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

Barack Obama

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.

I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this 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. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws – more than any president in history – is a clear abuse of this 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.

Hillary Clinton

I have opposed the Bush Administration's abuse of signing statements, and as President, I would not use signing statements to disagree on policy grounds with legislation passed by Congress or as an end run around the veto. I would only use signing statements in very rare instances to note and clarify confusing or contradictory provisions, including provisions that contradict the Constitution. My approach would be to work with Congress to eliminate or correct unconstitutional provisions before legislation is sent to my desk.

John Edwards

I strongly disagree with President Bush's use of signing statements as back-door vetoes and permission slips to disregard laws he finds inconvenient or objectionable. As president, I will return to the way that signing statements have been used historically. No one, including the president, is above the law.

Bill Richardson

None. Signing statements have been historically, and should continue to be, important sources of statutory interpretation and guidance, not only to the courts but also to Congress in its future deliberations on the matter and to subsequent administrations in carrying out the law. But such statements, as with other pieces of "legislative history," are interpretive aides, not law themselves. And, as I have already stated, as a general matter the Constitution does not empower the president to disregard properly enacted statutes. If a president feels that a statute improperly intrudes upon the constitutional authority of the office, that would render the statute unconstitutional and he should veto it.

Christopher Dodd

Never. If I thought it was unconstitutional, I would turn to the Courts, which is what our founding fathers expected and provided for in cases of Executive-Congressional differences.

Joseph Biden

I would not. The American people are best served when the branches of government work together, respecting and observing the separation of powers envisioned by our Founding Fathers. As President I will develop a relationship of trust and cooperation with the legislature. I will work hard to ensure that the laws they pass respect and take into account the powers of the Presidency, but I will not use a signing statement to attempt to override a valid act of Congress.

John McCain

As President, I won’t have signing statements. I will either sign or veto any legislation that comes across my desk.

Mitt Romney

I share the view of many past presidents that signing statements are an important presidential practice.

Ron Paul


Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani declined to answer this question.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee declined to answer this question.

Fred Thompson

Thompson declined to answer this question.