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Statement on Signing the Bill To Increase the Federal Debt Ceiling

September 29, 1987

I am today signing H.J. Res. 324, which raises the debt ceiling and amends the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. In addition to the views expressed in my public remarks on this occasion, certain provisions of this joint resolution require technical comment as a matter of legislative history.

First, the Supreme Court's recent decision in Bowsher v. Synar, which struck down portions of the original Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, makes clear that the Comptroller General cannot be assigned executive authority by the Congress. In light of this decision, section 206(c) of the joint resolution, which purports to reaffirm the power of the Comptroller General to sue the executive branch under the Impoundment Control Act, is unconstitutional. It is only on the understanding that section 206(c) is clearly severable from the rest of the joint resolution, under the reasoning of the Supreme Court's 1987 decision in Alaska Airlines v. Brock, that I am signing the joint resolution with this constitutional defect.

Second, I wish to make clear my understanding that sections 252(a) (1) and (2) of the amended act—which direct the President to issue in strict accordance with the report submitted by the Office of Management and Budget—do not preclude me or future Presidents from exercising our authority to supervise the execution of the law by overseeing and directing the Director of OMB in the preparation and, if necessary, revision of his reports. If this provision were interpreted otherwise, so as to require the President to follow the orders of a subordinate, it would plainly constitute an unconstitutional infringement of the President's authority as head of a unitary executive branch.

Third, section 106(f) of the joint resolution purports to require the President to submit a budget that complies with certain conditions concerning reductions in spending. In light of the President's plenary power under Article II, sec. 3 of the Constitution to submit to the Congress any legislation he deems necessary and expedient, this provision must be viewed as merely precatory.

Finally, to preserve the President's right to be presented with the full text of bills, resolutions, and orders submitted for his approval, I am construing section 251(a)(6)(C)(i) of the amended act—which contains parenthetical language that could be viewed as attempting to incorporate committee reports by reference into legislation—consistently with my understanding that material intended to have the force of law must itself be presented to the President.

Note: H.J. Res. 324, approved September 29, was assigned Public Law No. 100-119.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing the Bill To Increase the Federal Debt Ceiling Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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