It’s quite rare that legislation is so popular that it passes unanimously, and even rarer when it happens in BOTH the Senate and House of Representatives. Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama signed such legislation on Friday, April 18, 2014. But, even though the legislation is popular, Obama says he will treat it as a “suggestion.”
The legislation in question (S.2195), introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), denies entry into the US to ANYONE who has engaged in espionage or terrorism, or who poses a threat to our national security. The legislation was is specifically directed at Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. Aboutalebi was one of the Muslim students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 during the Carter administration, then tortured 52 American hostages for 444 days.
Aboutalebi insist that his involvement in the Embassy seizure was limited to translation and negotiation. And Iran has accused the US of setting a dangerous precedent by violating the right of sovereign states to designate representatives to the United Nations. Iranian UN Mission spokesman Hamid Babaei said Iran had sent a delegation to meet with the UN office of Legal Affairs, after filing a letter of complaint to the UN and its General Assembly Committee on Relations with the Host Country. Iran’s letter says that the US was breaching its obligations under the US-UN Host Country Agreement, which is a treaty and US law that generally requires the host country to allow access to diplomats and UN guest speakers. The 19-nation Host Country committee, chaired by Cyprus, can hold a hearing on the issue, but it cannot change the US decision.
Along with the legislation signing, Obama issued what is known as a signing statement. Presidents occasionally issue signing statements to assert that they believe part of the legislation is unconstitutional and therefore they intend to ignore it or implement it in a way they see fit. Obama said he will treat the legislation as advisory out of concern it could interfere with his discretion to receive ambassadors. About the legislataion, he said, “Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’ concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our nation.”
Of Obama’s actions (included a caveat saying he would take the legislation as guidance – not necessarily as something he feels the need to enforce), Former Justice Department attorney J. Christopher Adams said that Obama’s actions amounted to “totally embarrassing hypocrisy.”
And, speaking of hypocrisy, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a chief supporter of the legislation, said Obama did the right thing by signing it into law. “This bill sends a loud and clear message to Iran, and to all others, that the United States will not allow people who harm Americans to come here and operate with diplomatic immunity.”
Does Obama have the legal ability to ignore legislation he disfavors? Not according to the US Constitution. In Article II, section 3, there is this: “… he [the president] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed …[.] The Constitution is very clear and unambiguous here. It says “the laws.” It doesn’t say “some laws,” or “laws that I favor.”
Obama, in his State of the Union speech in January, said “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” In January it was “without legislation,” meaning Executive Orders. The situation has now progressed to treating legislation as a suggestion. Obama says he is concerned about the legislation’s constitutionality. But recent actions suggest otherwise. The questions now are, “What’s next? King-ship?”