WASHINGTON, DC—In a decisive 1–0 decision Monday, President Bush voted to grant the president the constitutional power to grant himself additional powers.
"As president, I strongly believe that my first duty as president is to support and serve the president," Bush said during a televised address from the East Room of the White House shortly after signing his executive order. "I promise the American people that I will not abuse this new power, unless it becomes necessary to grant myself the power to do so at a later time."
The Presidential Empowerment Act, which the president hand-drafted on his own Oval Office stationery and promptly signed into law, provides Bush with full authority to permit himself to authorize increased jurisdiction over the three branches of the federal government, provided that the president considers it in his best interest to do so.
"In a time of war, the president must have the power he needs to make the tough decisions, including, if need be, the decision to grant himself even more power," Bush said. "To do otherwise would be playing into the hands of our enemies."
Added Bush: "And it's all under due process of the law as I see it."
In addition, the president reserves the right to overturn any decision to allow himself to increase his power by using a line-item veto, which in turn may only be overruled by the president.
Senior administration officials lauded Bush's decision, saying that current presidential powers over presidential power were "far too limited."
"Previously, the president only had the power to petition Congress to allow him to grant himself the power to grant more power to himself," Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said shortly after the ceremony. "Now, the president can grant himself the power to interpret new laws however he sees fit, then use that power to interpret a law in such a manner that in turn grants him increased power."
In addition, a proviso in the 12th provision of the new law permits Bush the authority to waive the need for any presidential authorization of power in a case concerning national security, although legal experts suggest it would be little exercised.
Despite the president's new powers, the role of Congress and the Supreme Court has not been overlooked. Under the new law, both enjoy the newly broadened ability to grant the president the authority to increase his presidential powers.
"This gives the president the tools he needs to ensure that the president has all the necessary tools to expedite what needs to be done, unfettered by presidential restrictions on himself," said Rep. John Cornyn (R-TX). "It's long overdue."
Though public response to the new law has been limited, there has been an unfavorable reaction among Democrats, who are calling for restrictions on Bush's power to allow himself to grant the president more powers that would restrict the powers of Congress.
"This is a clear case of President Bush having carte blanche to grant himself complete discretion to enact laws to increase his power," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. "The only thing we can do now is withhold our ability to grant him more authority to grant himself more power."
"Unless he authorizes himself to strip us of that power," Reid added.
Despite criticism, Bush took his first official action under the new law Tuesday, signing an executive order ordering that the chief executive be able to order more executive orders.
In addition, Republicans fearful that the president's new power undermines their ability to grant him power have proposed a new law that would allow senators to permit him to grant himself power, with or without presidential approval.