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Specter Moves to Curb Executive Branch Powers

Senate Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on Thursday introduced a trio of bills aimed at curbing executive branch powers, including new controls on the use of presidential signing statements and electronic surveillance.

The Presidential Signing Statements Act would essentially strip the legal authority signing statements enjoyed during the George W. Bush administration. Specter’s other two bills would require an expedited Supreme Court review of challenges to the warrantless wiretapping program and free telephone companies from having to pay damages under those lawsuits.

The legislative proposals come even as the new administration continues to use signing statements to implement legislation. Obama and other Democrats complained loudly about the practice during the Bush era.

“While President Obama’s recent signing statements have not been encouraging, I hope that he, as the first sitting Senator to be elected to the office since John F. Kennedy, will signal support for this important legislation,— Specter said in a statement, arguing that “such legislative action is necessary to resolve the clash between the Executive and Legislative branches over the legality and constitutionality of surveillance programs and the use of signing statements.—

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