Obama signs Patriot Act extension via autopen

So Obama will sign a bill into law via autopen.. for those who are not aware of what autopen is, we will post a photo.  It is often used by folks who sign baseballs and want to save their wrists.  Kosher?  I am not sure if it is even constitutional.  How about sign an unconstitutional provision with an unconstitutional signature? and so it goes… But in 2005 The Justice Department offered a legal opinion that it is indeed O.K. for a sitting president to use autopen to sign a bill.

So the president will use an autopen –- a machine that replicates Obama’s signature -– to sign the extension, according to White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.

“Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. As long as Congress approves the extension, the President will direct the use of the autopen to sign it,” Shapiro said in a statement.

via Obama to sign Patriot Act extension … via autopen « Hot Air Headlines.

Harry Truman is believed to have been the first United States President to use the autopen as a way of responding to mail and signing checks. Autopen devices are used today by politicians and fundraisers to sign letters to constituents written by administrative assistants and clerical staff, and by celebrities such as movie stars, music stars and astronauts to sign photographs. A company named Studio Fanmail uses autopens to reproduce celebrity autographs onto pictures of the celebrity.

Today’s autopens are often used to allow someone to sign correspondences on behalf of an official. For example, a politician can be traveling while his staff sign letters on his behalf.

via Autopen

Obama Won’t Personally Sign Patriot Act Extension

the White House will use an autopen –- a machine that replicates Obama’s signature -– to sign the extension, according to White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.

“Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. As long as Congress approves the extension, the President will direct the use of the autopen to sign it,” Shapiro said in a statement.

Jay Wexler, a Boston University law professor and author of “The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions,” says the constitutionality of using an autopen was confirmed in a thorough 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion.

Here’s the relevant passage written by then-Deputy Attorney General Howard C. Nielson:

“We examine the legal understanding of the word ‘sign’ at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic.  We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another. … Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 [of the Constitution.]”

via Obama Won’t Personally Sign Patriot Act Extension – The Note.

Legal Opinion or not, is it Constitutional?

Presentment Clause: The President Can Sign a Bill With an Autopen

The so-called “Presentment Clause” of Article I, Section 7 says that before a bill passed by both houses of Congress can become law, it must be “presented to the President of the United States.”  The President can then either sign the bill or veto it.  But does the President have to personally sign the bill with his own very hands, or can he direct a subordinate to put the President’s signature on the bill with an autopen?  What should happen, for example, if the President needs to sign a bill into law immediately but he’s in, like, New Zealand, maybe, or the Aleutian Islands?  Well, the Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion in 2005 that confirms the President’s authority to direct a subordinate to put the President’s signature on an enrolled bill through autopen.  Here’s the paragraph summarizing the opinion’s reasoning:

Our analysis proceeds as follows:  In Part I, we examine the legal understanding of the word “sign” at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic.  We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another.  We then review opinions of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and find the same understanding reflected in opinions addressing statutory signing requirements in a variety of contexts.  Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7.  In Part II, we consider the settled interpretation of the related provisions of the same section of the Constitution that require that bills be presented to the President and that the President return to Congress bills he disapproves, and find that this interpretation confirms our view of Article I, Section 7′s signing requirement.  In Part III, we consider practice and precedent relating to the constitutional signing requirement and show that they do not foreclose our conclusion.

via Presentment Clause: The President Can Sign a Bill With an Autopen | Odd Clauses Watch.

After all that I still am not sure.

Has a President ever used autopen before to sign a bill into law?

We do know that Jefferson used autopen but not for Presidential matters.  Truman was the first to use the invention to sign checks and letters.  We cannot find, in the record, that autopen has ever been used to sign a bill into Law.

Even so…

The White House issued this Statement on Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:54 PM six minutes before the act was to expire:

On Thursday, May 26, 2011, the President signed into law:

S. 990, the “PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011,” which extends certain surveillance authorities included in the USA PATRIOT Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Related:

  1. How President Obama barely beat the deadline to sign the Patriot Act extension — without picking up a pen
  2. PATRIOT Act Renewed – But is it Legal?

 

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