Bush's order based on untested opinion


WASHINGTON -- Lacking any congressional authority to spend money as of 12:01 a.m. yesterday, President Bush relied on anuntested legal opinion in ordering "essential" federal workers to stay on the job.

White House officials said Mr. Bush's authority to keep selected officials at their jobs is based on an opinion written by former Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, first issued in January 1981 during the closing days of President Jimmy Carter's administration. The memorandum asserted that presidents may continue activities "that are authorized by law or that protect life and property."

The Civiletti opinion has never been tested by the courts, and some members of Congress question its constitutionality.

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