The legal significance of presidential signing statements

Steven G Calabresi*, Daniel Lev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Presidents have issued signing statements when signing bills into law since the first half of the Nineteenth Century but recently this practice has come under attack. In this short essay, we argue that presidential signing statements ought to be given legal weight for three reasons. First, they are part of a federal statute's legislative history because the president's concurrence is ordinarily necessary, along with the House and Senate's, for a bill to become law. Second, presidential signing statements are deserving of Chevron deference because of the President's constitutionally specified expertise as the chief executor of federal law. And, finally, presidential signing statements are a vital mechanism by which the President as the nation's unitary head of the executive branch can control exercises of the executive power by his millions of subordinates. For all three of these reasons, presidential signing statements are legally binding on subordinate executive branch personnel and they also ought to be given legal weight by federal and state courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006


  • Executive power
  • Presidency
  • Signing statements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

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