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Signing Statements as Bargaining Outcomes: Evidence from the Administration of George W. Bush


Andrew B. Whitford is a professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on bureaucratic politics, political economy, and research methodology. He is coauthor of Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda.


Recent studies have documented how presidents issue signing statements. A president might try to bend policy closer to his own position through shaping how bureaucrats use their discretion to implement a law. Later in time, it may serve as a defense if it shapes how judges decide whether a particular interpretation is consistent with the Constitution. A president may construct more detailed and complex statements when his ideal point is distant from Congress. I test this hypothesis and others using data from the George W. Bush administration between 2001 and 2006. Both the number of objections applied to a given bill and their complexity increase when the president is distant from Congress.