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A recent debate about the Bush administration's use of presidential signing statements has raised questions about their function, legality, and value. We argue that presidential signing statements are legal and that they provide a useful way for the president to disclose his views about the meaning and constitutionality of legislation. In addition, basic tenets of positive political theory suggest that signing statements do not undermine the separation of powers or the legislative process and that, under certain circumstances, they can provide relevant evidence of statutory meaning. Although President Bush has raised many more constitutional challenges within his signing statements than prior presidents have, at least on their face these challenges are similar to challenges made by other recent presidents, such as President Clinton. Whether Bush's views of executive power are significantly different from Clinton's, and if so, whether they are inferior, remain open questions, but these issues are independent of whether signing statements are lawful.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Executive power, Federal government