WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) thought he had a deal when President Bush, faced with a veto-proof margin in Congress, agreed to sign a bill banning the torture of detainees. Not quite. While Bush signed the new law, he also quietly approved another document: a signing statement reserving his right to ignore the law. McCain was furious, and so were other lawmakers.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is opening hearings this week into what has become the White House's favorite tool for overriding Congress in the name of wartime national security.
"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," the committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick."
Apparently, enough to challenge more than 750 statutes passed by Congress, far more than any other president, Specter's committee says. The White House does not dispute that number, but points out that Bush is far from the nation's first chief executive to issue them.
Okay, this is scary. He’s officially above the law. Even his own party is worried.