President Barak Obama wasn’t the first U.S. President to use an autopen when he signed the “fiscal cliff” legislation this month. Presidents have relied on technology to help them perform their duties since the days of Thomas Jefferson.
Clearly a fan of technology, Jefferson was the first president to use the polygraph, a mechanical device that produced identical copies of handwritten letters. “The use of the polygraph has spoiled me for the old copying press the copies of which are hardly ever legible. . . . I could not, now therefore, live without the Polygraph," he wrote to a friend while in office.
As for its predecessor, the autopen, President Obama has actually used the device several times. It copies and stores a signor’s pen strokes for later use, which allows him to sign legislation without having to physically be in Washington, D.C. or having the bill couriered to and from his location. The President first used the autopen to sign an extension of the Patriot Act while attending a summit in Europe.
Of course, any time a President strays from tradition, questions of legality often arise. When President Obama first used the autopen, Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.) raised questions about whether the bill was truly “presented” to the President and asked for an explanation of its constitutionality. The use of the autopen, however, has never been officially challenged in court.
With regard to signing a bill into law, the U.S. Constitution simply states: "If he approve he shall sign it." It does not offer any guidelines regarding the means of signature.
When President George W. Bush was first presented with the option of the autopen, he asked the Department of Justice to prepare an opinion on whether it complied with the Constitution. As explained by the DOJ, “Neither the constitutional text nor the drafting and ratification debates provide further guidance regarding what it means for the President to 'sign' a bill he approves."
“The President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill he approves and decides to sign in order for the bill to become law. Rather, the President may sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 by directing a subordinate to affix the President's signature to such a bill, for example by autopen," the opinion concluded.
While its legality seems to be solidified, the White House still closely guards any information about it. Jack Shock, Bill Clinton's director of presidential letters and messages, once joked, "I always heard the autopen was the second-most guarded thing in the White House after the president."
Toronto-based Brookfield Holdings LLC wants to reopen Atlantic City's Revel as a casino, the Associated Press reported today.Read More >
Bergen County Freeholder forum mostly convivial, but at times confrontational TEANECK - The Bergen County freeholder forum on Tuesday night was a relatively collegial affair until the final two minutes on the 90-minute event. Republican freeholder candidate Robert Avery, flanked by fellow GOP freeholder candidate Bernadette Coghlan-Walsh, referred to...
By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor. Not only is there no current legal... Read More >
"I see Loretta Weinberg in the back of the room. Loretta, you have my eternal admiration for what you did to rid the Democratic Party of a certain political boss. However, not everyone shares that distinction." - Bergen County Republican Freeholder candidate Robert Avery- PolitickerNJ
Press releases are submitted by PolitickerNJ users, not by staff. They do not represent the viewpoint of PolitickerNJ.com.