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Federal Legislative History Research

A how to guide for pinpointing congressional documents to help determine legislative intent

What is a Presidential Signing Statement?

When presidents sign a bill into law or veto a bill, they can issue a pronouncement to accompany the bill. Typically, presidents use these pronouncements to point out what they see as the positive or negative aspects of the bill and how the bill fits in with the administration’s views. The signing statements often define or clarify what the president considers as ambiguous aspects of the bill, or explains why the president is vetoing the bill.

Locating Presidential Signing Statements

Presidential documents are collected in two sources:

Compilation of Presidential Documents: The Compilation of Presidential Documents collection consists of the official publications of materials released by the White House Press Secretary. Documents within the Compilation include acts approved by the President, White House press releases, digests of White House announcements, nominations submitted to the Senate, and Presidential Signing Statements.

  • Govinfo.gov: 1992 to the present o From the govinfo.gov homepage, select “browse” > “Budget and Presidential Materials” > “Compilation of Presidential Documents”

Public Papers of the Presidents: These papers are an official series of documents that includes Presidential writings, addresses, and remarks. These documents are organized by president and are helpful if you are interested in a Presidential Signing Statement.

  • Govinfo.gov: Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama; missing Franklin D. Roosevelt o From the govinfo.gov homepage, select “browse” > “Budget and Presidential Materials” > “Public Papers of the President”