A Belated Presidential Signing Statement:

On Wednesday, June 24, President Obama signed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, and issued a short, laudatory signing statement. It was purely "rhetorical," to use the language of academics who study this subject, and voiced no constitutional objections.

I want to thank the Members of Congress who put politics aside and stood up to support a bill that will provide for the safety of our troops and the American people. This legislation will make available the funding necessary to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, defeat terrorist networks in Afghanistan, and further prepare our nation in the event of a continued outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic flu.

Two days later, apparently at about 4:15 pm on the evening of Friday, June 26, the President issued an additional statement that contained the fifth constitutional signing statement of his presidency. After four paragraphs lauding the funding the Act provides, the President stated:

However, provisions of this bill within sections 1110 to 1112 of title XI, and sections 1403 and 1404 of title XIV, would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the Congress prior to such negotiations or discussions. I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.

Unlike some of his recent signing statements, there was no express indication that the Administration previously communicated these complaints to Congress before enactment.

While I believe there is nothing inherently improper about issuing the signing statement a couple days late (although for reasons President Obama appropriately has recognized, it's better to tell Congress before the legislation is enacted and it's in a position to do something about it), it is certainly unusual. The only explanations I can think of offhand are that either (1) some lawyers in OLC or the Counsel's Office couldn't get their act together in time or (2) perhaps the Administration is trying to control the news cycle by releasing it on Friday evening. Let me know if another explanation occurs to you.

The Obama signing statement reflects the longstanding Executive Branch position on the President's constitutional authority in the area of foreign affairs. The signing statement was similar to ones issued by, for example, President George W. Bush. See, e.g.:

Several provisions of the Act purport to direct or burden the conduct of negotiations by the executive branch with foreign governments, international organizations, or other entities abroad, or otherwise interfere with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs. These include sections 514, 560, and 581(a), and the appropriations heading related to the International Development Association, which purport to direct the Secretary of the Treasury to require the U.S. representatives to take particular positions for the United States in international organizations or require the Secretary to accord priority to a particular objective in negotiations with such an organization. Another such provision is section 567(b), which purports to direct the Secretary of State to consult certain international organizations in determining the state of events abroad. These provisions shall be construed consistent with my constitutional authorities to conduct foreign affairs, participate in international negotiations, and supervise the executive branch.

Signing Statement for H.R. 2506, the "Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002" (Jan. 10, 2002).

It does not appear that the NY Times, the Washington Post, or the Boston Globe covered the signing statement in their newspapers. Charlie Savage of the Times did a brief blog post on the statement, although one might say it lacks the "urgency" of some of his earlier Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporting on the subject.