Statements of Power: Presidential Use of Statements of Administration Policy and Signing Statements in the Legislative Process


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank Kalani Aydt and Emily Siemer for their research assistance.

Laurie L. Rice is an assistant professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her research focuses on presidential influence as well as presidential campaigns and civic engagement.


George W. Bush attracted heavy fire for his frequent use of signing statements to disregard or reinterpret provisions of law he deemed unconstitutional infringements on executive power. A 2006 American Bar Association task force recommended that the president instead communicate constitutionality concerns to Congress prior to bill passage and that he veto bills when those concerns were not sufficiently remedied. I trace the development of presidential justification for signing statements and compares their content to that of formal communications occurring earlier in the legislative process: Statements of Administration Policy. While presidents sometimes give advance notice of their concerns in an attempt at bargaining, they also frequently blindside Congress with signing statements targeting provisions that generated no prior comment or complaint. I suggest that presidents may use both documents to assert substantial power over the interpretation of laws and that both deserve close scrutiny.