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Monday, May 29, 2006

Cheney aide is screening legislation - By Charlie Savage

Remember, by the Constitution, the V.P.'s only jobs are to preside over the Senate and break any tie votes and to check every morning that the President is still breathing and lucid. Any other jobs are merely appointed to him by his boss. --pseudolus
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WASHINGTON -- The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.
 
The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush administration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
 
The Bush-Cheney administration has used such statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and numerous requirements that they provide certain information to Congress, among other laws.
 
Previous vice presidents have had neither the authority nor the interest in reviewing legislation. But Cheney has used his power over the administration's legal team to promote an expansive theory of presidential authority. Using signing statements, the administration has challenged more laws than all previous administrations combined.
 
``Addington could look at whatever he wanted," said one former White House lawyer who helped prepare signing statements and who asked not to be named because he was describing internal deliberations. ``He had a roving commission to get involved in whatever interested him."
 
Knowing that Addington was likely to review the bills, other White House and Justice Department lawyers began vetting legislation with Addington's and Cheney's views in mind, according to another former lawyer in the Bush White House.
 
All these lawyers, he said, were extremely careful to flag any provision that placed limits on presidential power.
 
``You didn't want to miss something," said the second former White House lawyer, who also asked not to be named.
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