This is the kind of investigation I've been waiting six years for...
The House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation challenging repeated assertions by President Bush that he need not enforce aspects of laws he deems unconstitutional.
Committee members clashed over the validity of the investigation, which began with a committee hearing on Wednesday. Democrats said Bush is overstepping his executive role and meddling with the legislative process. Republicans maintained the president's assertions are merely guiding interpretations and follow long-term precedent.
The investigation will cover Bush's commentary on bills approved by both congressional chambers that require presidential approval. In at least 148 cases, Bush has appended what are known as "signing statements" to his signature. The documents outline specific aspects of the law that he finds unconstitutional and might refuse to enforce.
Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said Bush's widespread use of the signings challenge at least 800 provisions in laws passed while he has been in office.
"The administration has engaged in these practices under a veil of secrecy," Conyers said during the hearing. "This is a constitutional issue that no self-respecting federal legislature should tolerate."
The signing statements amount to a line-item veto, according to critics, and frustrate the legislative branch by not giving lawmakers the opportunity to override a presidential veto. They also have said that Bush has failed repeatedly to notify Congress of his intentions and that a collection of his signing statements is not readily accessible to lawmakers or the public.