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Obama Promised Not to Use Signing Statements, but Released One Last Night

8:37 AM, Jan 3, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In 2008, Barack Obama promised that he would not use signing statements, but last night he released one to accompany his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.

Here's Obama's pledge:

He said that signing statements are a presidential power grab, and made clear he believed it violated the Constitution.

Overnight, however, Obama released this signing statement, in an attempt to try to change the meaning of the defense bill Congress sent to him for his signature:


 Office of the Press Secretary                         

For Immediate Release         January 2, 2013 


 Today I have signed into law H.R. 4310, the "National 

Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013."  I have 

approved this annual defense authorization legislation, as 

I have in previous years, because it authorizes essential 

support for service members and their families, renews vital 

national security programs, and helps ensure that the 

United States will continue to have the strongest military 

in the world.   

 Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions 

contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of 

sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree 

with them all.  Our Constitution does not afford the President 

the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by 

one.  I am empowered either to sign the bill, or reject it, as 

a whole.  In this case, though I continue to oppose certain 

sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense 

authorities and funding was too great to ignore. 

 In a time when all public servants recognize the need to 

eliminate wasteful or duplicative spending, various sections in 

the Act limit the Defense Department's ability to direct scarce 

resources towards the highest priorities for our national 

security.  For example, restrictions on the Defense Department's 

ability to retire unneeded ships and aircraft will divert scarce 

resources needed for readiness and result in future unfunded 

liabilities.  Additionally, the Department has endeavored to 

constrain manpower costs by recommending prudent cost sharing 

reforms in its health care programs.  By failing to allow 

some of these cost savings measures, the Congress may force 

reductions in the overall size of our military forces.  

 Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, 

as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of 

conscience of chaplains and service members.  The Secretary of 

Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not 

permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good 

order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of 

conduct.  My Administration remains fully committed to 

continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don't 

Ask, Don't Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian 

service members; Section 533 will not alter that. 

 Several provisions in the bill also raise constitutional 

concerns.  Section 1025 places limits on the military's 

authority to transfer third country nationals currently held at 

the detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan.  That facility is 

located within the territory of a foreign sovereign in the midst 

of an armed conflict.  Decisions regarding the disposition of 

detainees captured on foreign battlefields have traditionally 

been based upon the judgment of experienced military commanders 

and national security professionals without unwarranted  

interference by Members of Congress.  Section 1025 threatens to 

upend that tradition, and could interfere with my ability as 

Commander in Chief to make time-sensitive determinations about 

the appropriate disposition of detainees in an active area of 

hostilities.  Under certain circumstances, the section could 

violate constitutional separation of powers principles.  If 

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