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Pelosi threat to sue Bush over Iraq bill

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/pelosi-threat-to-sue-bush-over-iraq-bill-2007-05-08.html Pelosi threat to sue Bush over Iraq bill By Jonathan E. Kaplan and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 8, 2007
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      http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/pelosi-threat-to-sue-bush-over-iraq-bill-2007-05-08.html

      Pelosi threat to sue Bush over Iraq bill
      By Jonathan E. Kaplan and Elana Schor
      May 09, 2007
      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening
      to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing
      statement as a way of sidestepping a carefully crafted
      compromise Iraq war spending bill.

      Pelosi recently told a group of liberal bloggers, “We
      can take the president to court” if he issues a
      signing statement, according to Kid Oakland, a blogger
      who covered Pelosi’s remarks for the liberal website
      dailykos.com.

      “The president has made excessive use of signing
      statements and Congress is considering ways to respond
      to this executive-branch overreaching,” a spokesman
      for Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami, said. “Whether through the
      oversight or appropriations process or by enacting new
      legislation, the Democratic Congress will challenge
      the president’s non-enforcement of the laws.”

      It is a scenario for which few lawmakers have planned.
      Indicating that he may consider attaching a signing
      statement to a future supplemental spending measure,
      Bush last week wrote in his veto message, “This
      legislation is unconstitutional because it purports to
      direct the conduct of operations of the war in a way
      that infringes upon the powers vested in the
      presidency.”

      A lawsuit could be seen as part of the Democrats’
      larger political strategy to pressure — through a
      series of votes on funding the war — congressional
      Republicans to break with Bush over Iraq.

      Democrats floated other ideas during yesterday’s
      weekly caucus meeting. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.)
      suggested that the House consider a measure to rescind
      the 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq. Several
      senators and Democratic presidential candidates
      recently have proposed that idea.

      “There was a ripple around the room” in support of the
      idea, said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

      In the 1970s, congressional Democrats tried to get the
      courts to force President Nixon to stop bombing in
      Cambodia. The courts ruled that dissident lawmakers
      could not sue solely to obtain outcomes they could not
      secure in Congress.

      In order to hear an argument, a federal court would
      have to grant what is known as “standing,” meaning
      that lawmakers would have to show that Bush is
      willfully ignoring a bill Congress passed and that he
      signed into law.

      The House would have to demonstrate what is called
      “injury in fact.” A court might accept the case if “it
      is clear that the legislature has exhausted its
      ability to do anything more,” a former general counsel
      to the House of Representatives, Stanley Brand, said.

      Lawmakers have tried to sue presidents in the past for
      taking what they consider to be illegal military
      action, but courts have rejected such suits.

      A law professor at Georgetown Law Center, Nicholas
      Rosenkranz, said Bush is likely to express his view on
      the constitutionality of the next supplemental in
      writing. Whether Bush has leeway to treat any
      provision of the supplemental as advisory, however,
      depends on the wording Congress chooses, Rosenkranz
      added.

      Bruce Fein, who was a Justice Department official
      under President Reagan, said Democrats seeking to
      challenge a signing statement would have to try to
      give themselves standing before filing a lawsuit.

      “You’d need an authorizing resolution in the House and
      Senate … to seek a declaratory judgment from the
      federal district court that the president, by issuing
      a signing statement, is denying Congress’s obligation
      to [hold a veto override vote],” Fein said.

      Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to
      that end last year, but the idea of a lawsuit has yet
      to gain traction in Congress.

      Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin
      (D-Mich.) said that “the odds would be good” for a
      signing statement on the next supplemental,
      considering that Bush has in the past shown a
      predilection for excusing his administration from
      contentious bills. But Levin did not offer any clues
      as to how Democratic leaders would counter Bush.
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