Presidential Signature / Presidential Signing Statements (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Presidential Signature / Presidential Signing Statements

George Washington's signature
George Washington's signature

A proposed law passed by Congress must be presented to the president, who then has 10 days to approve or disapprove it (Article. I. Section. 7.). The president signs bills he supports, making them law. He vetoes a bill by returning it to the chamber in which it began, usually with a written message. Normally, bills he neither signs nor vetoes within 10 days become law without his signature.

Unlike vetoes, presidential signing statements are not part of the legislative process as set forth in the Constitution, and have no legal effect. A signed law is still a law regardless of what the President says in an accompanying signing statement.

Signing statements have been used since the early 19th century by presidents to comment on the law being signed. Such comments can include giving the president’s interpretation of the meaning of the law’s language; asserting objections to certain provisions of the law on constitutional grounds; and stating the president’s intent regarding how the president intends to execute, or carry out, the law, including giving guidance to executive branch personnel.


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The use of signing statements by presidents, originally a rare occurrence, has increased gradually over time, becoming increasingly prevalent starting with the Reagan Administration. All presidents since President Reagan have issued signing statements, and increasingly these statements have contained one or more challenges or objections to the laws being signed.

Also see: Executive Privilege / Qualified Privilege (; Slip Laws (; Pocket Veto; § 6.290, Presidential Action on Enacted Measures and § 6.291, Signing Statement, in Congressional Deskbook.






Presidential signing statements



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