Obama Issues Signing Statement on Budget With No Mention of District Riders

Today, President Barack Obama signed the budget bill that averted the government shutdown a week ago. In doing so, he issued a signing statement noting issues with three provisions — two relating to transfer of detainees at Guantanamo and one that defunded four of the Obama “czars.” Obama’s statement did not, however, reference the District-related provisions that led to a protest and the arrest of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and 40 others on April 11.

gray.jpgOf the defunded executive positions, Obama took a strong position, writing, “Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President.

“Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President’s ability to exercise his supervisory [authority] violate the separation of powers …. Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.”

In other words, the administration will not abide by the provision because they view it as unconstitutional.

As to the Guantanamo detainee transfer provisions, however, Obama said that he opposes but will enforce the provisions.

“Despite my continued strong objection to these provisions, I have signed this Act because of the importance of avoiding a lapse in appropriations for the Federal Government, including our military activities, for the remainder of fiscal year 2011,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, my Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.”

Obama has, in the past, expressed his support for D.C. home rule, but he did not mention the two provisions that led to the protest and arrest of Gray, several D.C. City Council members and many others at the beginning of this week — one “rider,” as they are known, prohibiting District-raised tax money from being used to provide abortion services and another regarding the private school voucher program in the District.

In the past, such riders restricted District needle-exchange efforts and the District’s domestic-partner registry. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has been a staunch advocate of eliminating riders from the budget. Although there was some concern that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) or another conservative member might try to add a rider to impact D.C. marriage equality, no such effort ever materialized — let alone succeeded.

On April 12, asked about the protests and arrests, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “The President did not get everything he wanted. He would not have supported this, does not support the provision that concerns the mayor. And he is a firm supporter of D.C. home rule.”

The White House did not immediately respond this evening as to why the riders were not mentioned in the signing statement, but a White House aide did confirm that there have been staff-to-staff communications between the White House and the Mayor’s office since Gray’s arrest.

[Photo: Gray (Photo by Ward Morrison/Metro Weekly.)]

Read the full signing statement below the jump.

* * *

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

­___________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                                                                   April 15, 2011

 

Statement by the President on H.R. 1473

 

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1473, the “Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011″.

Section 1112 of the Act bars the use of funds for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States, and section 1113 bars the use of funds for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met.  Section 1112 represents the continuation of a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests.  The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us.  Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.

With respect to section 1113 of the Act, the restrictions on the transfer of detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries interfere with the authority of the executive branch to make important and consequential foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances such transfers should occur in the context of an ongoing armed conflict.  We must have the ability to act swiftly and to have broad flexibility in conducting our negotiations with foreign countries.  The executive branch has sought and obtained from countries that are prospective recipients of Guantanamo detainees assurances that they will take or have taken measures reasonably designed to be effective in preventing, or ensuring against, returned detainees taking action to threaten the United States or engage in terrorist activities.  Consistent with existing statutes, the executive branch has kept the Congress informed about these assurances and notified the Congress prior to transfers.  Requiring the executive branch to certify to additional conditions would hinder the conduct of delicate negotiations with foreign countries and therefore the effort to conclude detainee transfers in accord with our national security.

Despite my continued strong objection to these provisions, I have signed this Act because of the importance of avoiding a lapse in appropriations for the Federal Government, including our military activities, for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

Nevertheless, my Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.

Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President.  The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority.  The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.

Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President’s ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.  Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.

 

                                                                        BARACK OBAMA

 

THE WHITE HOUSE,

April 15, 2011.

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