Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2008

Capstone Advisor

Professor Keith Bybee

Honors Reader

Professor Thomas Keck

Capstone Major

Political Science

Capstone College

Citizenship and Public Affairs

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

American Politics | Other Political Science | Political Science


The greatly expanded use of signing statements by President George W. Bush has been very controversial, as many view this as practice as an inappropriate encroachment by the president on the legislative function of Congress. A majority of the arguments made for or against the application of signing statements have focused on legal principles. The problem is that traditional legal, constitutional analysis does not fully address the concerns raised by signing statements. Not only is it unlikely that presidential signing statements violate the Constitution, but legal analysis fails to recognize or appropriately evaluate the policy implications of signing statements. This paper addresses this analytical shortfall, and the benefits of adding a policy dimension to the analytical framework, applying a multi-dimensional analysis to signing statements.

This paper first addresses the traditional constitutional arguments. It provides a historical context for both signing statements and the separation of powers principles upon which the constitutional analysis is based. It applies these principles to signing statements, and concludes that they do not violate the Constitution at the time they are made. This conclusion sets the stage for the principal focus of this paper: that a broader analysis is required to fully explore the implications of signing statements. Thus, the majority of the paper is dedicated to identifying the intended purpose of signing statements as policy. By framing the use of signing statements (since President Reagan) using three theories of presidential power and studying internal White House Documents, it is evident that signing statements fail as policy.

There are three conclusions to be taken from this paper. First, signing statements are a policy used to expand presidential power and are not a violation of the Constitution. Second, many of the legal interpretations of signing statements are based on policy arguments. The use of the signing statements is a poor policy because they are ineffective and the costs outweigh the benefits. Finally, conventional policy analysis has correlated the constitutionality of a policy with whether or not that policy is good. In truth, a policy can be constitutionally viable but still be a bad policy and vice versa. This expansive view of policy analysis can significantly improve policies by separating policy and legal interpretations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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