At 10 EST, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on "The Use of Presidential Signing Statements." Witnesses are Michelle Boardman, Office of Legal Counsel, Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School, Christopher Yoo, Vanderbilt Law School, Bruce Fein Esq., and Nicholas Rosenkranz, Georgetown Law Center. An article in yesterday's New York Times discussed Congress's anger and frustration over the Bush Administration's serial use of Presidential signing statements to stake out a position that contravenes the plain words of the statute and contravenes deals painstakingly worked out between Congress and the Executive Branch. Here is a link to a Findlaw article by John Dean that contains other references. Those interested in Justice Alito's views should read this January 2006 article from the Washington Post.
In light of the loud position of some that meaning is to be found only in the text of a statute, it will be interesting to hear their views on the weight if any to be given to the President's efforts to create a form of legislative history for the work product of another branch of government.
This is not to say that the Bush Administration is the first to use signing statements: my first real experience with them was, I believe, in 1998 when, in response to grumblings that Congress had impermissibly delegated to the Copyright Office the function of determining exemptions from the DMCA's anticircumvention provisions, President Clinton stunned the copyright world and many others by claiming in a signing statement that the Copyright Office was in the Executive Branch. It isn't and saying it is doesn't make it so. (Here is a link to a 1993 memorandum prepared by Bernie Nussbaum for President Clinton on the legal significance of signing statements).