Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More "Words" : Specter to grill officials on Bush ignoring laws

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration will have to explain why it thinks it can ignore or overrule laws passed by Congress in a hearing next week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said on Wednesday.

Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he hoped to force the Bush administration to reduce its use of "signing statements" -- memos that reserve the right to ignore laws if the president thinks they impinge on his authority.

"Our legislation doesn't amount to anything if the president can say, 'My constitutional authority supersedes the statute.' And I think we've got to lay down the gauntlet and challenge him on it," Specter said in a telephone interview.

A Justice Department official is scheduled to testify at a hearing on signing statements next Tuesday, Specter said.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who had lunch with Specter on Wednesday, will face questions about the presidential memos when he appears before the committee on July 18 to discuss the National Security Agency's domestic spying program.

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