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July 25, 2006

Ignoring Congress Politics  Rights, Law

The White House continues to flout the will of Congress. Congress won't repeal the estate tax, so what does the White House do? They fire the IRS lawyers who enforce it. NYT:

The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others. [...]

[S]ix I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said in interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits.

Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a "back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax." [Emphasis added]

Refusing to enforce a law is one way Bush has circumvented Congress. So-called "signing statements" are another. Yesterday, the American Bar Association weighed in on Presidential signing statements, calling them "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." The Nation:

[Monday], a bipartisan American Bar Association task force released its report challenging George Bush's flagrant misuse of signing statements to circumvent the constitutional separation of powers.

Bush has issued more than 800 challenges to provisions of passed laws (more than all previous presidents combined) and he has asserted "his right to ignore law." Among the areas of laws Bush has threatened through this "shortcut veto" are the ban on torture, affirmative action, whistleblower protection, and limits on use of "illegally collected intelligence."

The 10 member ABA panel includes three well-known conservatives, including Mickey Edwards – a former Republican Congressman who places protecting the Constitution above lock-step partisanship. Edwards, a former chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, is a true maverick whose recent article in The Nation signals his commitment to protecting our constitutional design. "The President. " Edwards wrote, [has] "chosen not to veto legislation with which he disagreed – thus giving Congress a chance to override his veto – but simply to assert his right to ignore the law, whether a domestic issue or a prohibition against torturing prisoners of war."

Task force member Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan administration, concurs: "When the president signs a bill and says he is not going to enforce parts of a bill that he finds unconstitutional, it is in effect an absolute veto, because the Congress has no power to override him."

According to The Washington Post, panel members wrote: "The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal. The Constitution is not what the President says it is." [Emphasis added]

Bush has issued more than 800 signing statements, a couple of hundred more than all previous presidents combined.

The ABA panel optimistically recommends "that Congress pass laws enabling judicial review of any instances in which the President claims authority to refuse to enforce legislation against the clear intent of Congress." No word on what happens when such a law is itself met with a signing statement, as one assumes it will be.

[Thanks, Mark]

Posted by Jonathan at July 25, 2006 01:36 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb