Presidential Documents Research Guide

This guide focuses on Executive Orders, Proclamations and Presidential Signing Statements.


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When presidents sign bills into law, they sometimes issue written statements expressing their views on those bills. These written statements are known as "presidential signing statements." Presidents often use signing statements to express their intention not to enforce parts of legislation that they consider to be unconstitutional, or otherwise provide an interpretation of the law as executive branch agencies will be directed to enforce it.

Since at least the Reagan era, scholars, jurists, and others have debated whether presidential signing statements should be considered as legislative history for purposes of interpreting federal statutes. In a recent example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia disagreed with his fellow justices' disregard of a signing statement related to the Detainee Treatment ActPub. L. No. 109-148, §§ 1005-1006, 119 Stat. 2736 (2005). Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006) (Scalia dissenting). In March 2009, President Obama issued a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies in which he opined "In appropriately limited circumstances, [presidential signing statements] represent an exercise of the President's constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and they promote a healthy dialogue between the executive branch and the Congress."

Sources for Presidential Signing Statements

Resources to Search about Presidential Signing Statements

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Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research arm of the Library of Congress, provides authoritative, objective, and nonpartisan research and analysis to committees and members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, regardless of party and affiliation. CRS produces new research as issues develop or are anticipated, and their reports are designed specifically to meet the needs of Congress. CRS research, while on a variety of topics, falls under five divisions: American Law; Domestic Social Policy; Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade; Government and Finance; and Resources, Science, and Industry.