The 2024 Executive Power Survey – Signing Statements


2024 Executive Power Survey

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Signing Statements

In recent decades, presidents have started to routinely use “signing statements” to claim a constitutional right to bypass provisions of bills they are signing into law. The American Bar Association has called the practice unconstitutional and said presidents can choose only between vetoing bills, giving Congress an opportunity to override their judgments, or signing and obeying all of them. Other legal specialists have disagreed, saying the practice is appropriate so long as the theories of executive power used to challenge provisions are legitimate.

Under what circumstances, if any, would you use signing statements to deem provisions of bills constitutionally invalid?

Headshot of Joe Biden

​​During my administration, I have used signing statements judiciously and sparingly to identify legislative provisions that may raise constitutional concerns, and to indicate to Congress and the public how I intend to interpret those provisions in light of those potential constitutional concerns.

I have also attempted, in statements of administration policy and through other means, to alert Congress at the earliest stage in the legislative process possible that bills under consideration include constitutionally problematic provisions, and to negotiate for their revision or removal.

Headshot of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I agree with the American Bar Association. The executive branch has exceeded its constitutional bounds at the expense of the other branches of government, particularly the legislative. It is up to the courts, not the president, to determine whether provisions of a bill are constitutionally valid or not.

Headshot of Marianne Williamson

None. As President George Washington explained, the president’s duty is to sign or veto a bill in toto. Presidential signing statements are like line-item vetoes, which the United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional in Clinton v. New York. The president swears to uphold the Constitution, which requires vetoing any bill the president believes contains an unconstitutional provision.

Presidential signing statements weaken an already effete Congress by disarming the legislature of power to bundle in a single bill provisions both liked and disliked by the president and forcing a decision that accepts all or none.

Headshot of Asa Hutchinson

Signing statements can be a legitimate tool for clarifying the executive’s understanding of a bill’s provisions. They should not be used to bypass or undermine the intent of Congress. Further, the use of signing statements should be approached with caution and restraint, and should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is a clear and compelling constitutional concern that cannot be resolved through other means.

I will always stand up for the Constitution and the principles of limited government. As president, I would prioritize open communication with Congress to address any constitutional concerns before signing a bill into law. It is essential to respect the role of each branch of government and work within the framework of checks and balances established by the founders to ensure the proper functioning of our democratic system.

Headshot of Mike Pence

The president has no authority to legislate, and must follow every constitutional law. On the rare occasions Congress passes unconstitutional laws like the Alien and Sedition Acts, which egregiously violated American liberties, the president is obligated as an actor subject to the Constitution not to follow them.

The executive branch must interpret laws that are ambiguous, and in ways that are consistent with the Constitution. It is most transparent and accountable for a president to issue such interpretations at the time laws are signed, rather than issuing egregiously abusive interpretations after the fact, as Joe Biden has repeatedly done in his unaccountable use of executive actions to reinterpret statutes.

Headshot of Francis Suarez

The president has an obligation not to enforce unconstitutional provisions of a statute because the Constitution overrides the statute under the supremacy clause. Using a signing statement to articulate the president’s belief that a particular provision is unconstitutional merely gives notice to both Congress and the public of the president’s views, promoting transparency and underlining the separation of powers. I would continue that practice as president.

The claim that the president must veto any bill containing an unconstitutional provision — even if the provision is one subsection in a bill containing hundreds of sections of vital importance to national security or the national economy — is entirely impracticable.

Headshot of Vivek Ramaswamy

I would not use “signing statements” as a backdoor line-item veto. The principal purpose of signing statements should be to provide public guidance on how the law will be enforced by the executive branch.

Headshot of Doug Burgum

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Chris Christie

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Ron DeSantis

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Nikki Haley

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Will Hurd

Will Hurd

Former United States representative

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Tim Scott

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Donald J. Trump

Has not responded to this question.

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