First, thanks to Naomi for tipping me to Obama’s plan to solicit public comments for a five-day period before signing any non-emergency legislation. Of course, the Obama Administration couldn’t use public comments to amend or improve legislation (which would violate separation of powers). But it’s interesting that he seems to be adopting a tool from administrative agencies, even if its use might be somewhat superficial. Would President Obama really refuse to sign legislation he otherwise agreed with if the web site, Change.gov, received a torrent of public comments against it? Is this a more extreme form of governing by poll numbers, or does it serve a useful democratic role for seeking public input?
Also, thanks to Lance for alerting me to several resources explaining the role of Presidential signing statements. Here’s Dean Yoo from Vanderbilt Law, testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Presidential signing statements are an important part of the legislative history of a statute — at least on par with the history generated by the House and Senate — insofar as it provides a contemporaneous view on how the statute is interpreted by a politically accountable branch of government. Also, here’s a student note in the Minnesota Law Review that’s directly on point.