Tom Graves questions Barack Obama’s use of an autopen

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who late Thursday voted against extension of the Patriot Act, is publicly questioning the decision by President Barack Obama to sign the extension into law via autopen.

Obama is currently in France. Says Graves:

“Consider the dangerous precedent this sets. Any number of circumstances could arise in the future where the public could question whether or not the president authorized the use of an autopen.

“For example, if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing? I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.”

Graves said he was aware that the Office of Legal Counsel, under President George W. Bush, issued an opinion declaring that the practice is constitutional. Continues Graves:

”I believe this is debatable, and have requested that President Obama provide a detailed explanation of his authority to delegate this responsibility to a surrogate, whether it is human, machine, or otherwise.”

Debate, yes. But let us pray that this doesn’t devolve into a tedious, birther-like discussion about legitimacy.

Updated at 1:50 p.m.: ABC News adds this:

In 2005, President George W. Bush was told by his Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice that he could use an autopen given “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.”

This, the OLC found, was supported by opinions of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice “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…

“We emphasize that we are not suggesting that the President may delegate the decision to approve and sign a bill, only that, having made this decision, he may direct a subordinate to affix the President’s signature to the bill.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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50 comments Add your comment


May 27th, 2011
1:13 pm

To be fair, Graves only took office last year.


May 27th, 2011
1:14 pm

But, he didn’t question the same practice when Bush used it. What a joke!

Big A

May 27th, 2011
1:19 pm

Huh?? Must be a slow day for Mr. Graves.


May 27th, 2011
1:30 pm

He makes a good point and notwithstanding the opinion issued when Bush was president he raises some valid questions. If the president couldn’t speak or was stuck in a hospital bed paralyzed and cabinet members or a staffer wanted him to sign an executive order but the acting President ( The VP most likely) was against it you could have a dangerous situation where we wouldn’t know who was in charge because of conflicting executive orders. I think an auto pen signing in this situation is fine but it needs to be limited to a very narrow set of conditions.

Original Thought not Necessary

May 27th, 2011
1:34 pm

People like Graves wouldn’t question when someone with the correct letter after their name makes a move. It’s analogous to the Tea Party. Where was the hue and cry and the rallys and the sturm and drang when GWB was spending our money like a frat boy in Vegas????? But as soon as someone with a D gets the White House…OH MY GOD……

I am cautiously optimistic that Americans are waking up to this hypocrisy.


May 27th, 2011
1:37 pm

Man, you Republicans really have nothing, do you. I’m making book on another four years of President Obama based on this.


May 27th, 2011
1:40 pm


Waking up? Question for you. Where is the hue and cry from the anti-war protesters for Iraq and Afgan. They disappeared has soon as Obama took office. Since then Obama has followed the Bush plan in Iraq, doubled down in Afgan, increased the attacks in Pakistan, kept Gitmo open, military trails and stared a new war in Libya.

Again, where are the protesters? I am so tired of the hypocrisy!

Sick of Republicans

May 27th, 2011
1:49 pm

And we question how you, Mr. Graves, got elected. Oh that’s right, if you are Republican you can break all the rules; be unethical; and be a crook and it is okay. Eight years of Bush and this bunch of clowns in Washington have turned me off Republicans 100%; even Johnny is getting as goofy as the rest of them.

Kevin H

May 27th, 2011
1:51 pm

Wait, so now we’ll have two years of REPUBLICANS complaining that the Patriot Act is unconstitutional?! Brilliant move, Mr. President!


May 27th, 2011
1:53 pm

“be a crook and it is okay.”

If you have proof of illegal activity by Graves I would encourage you to turn it over to the proper authorities. If not, use differnt language.


May 27th, 2011
2:18 pm

The Patriot Act was so unconstituional when GWB enacted it. I was outraged by it and didnt understand why Americans would allow the government to snoop on us anytime they wanted to. I don’t agree with President Obama signing an extension, but I say don’t start crying now since he signed the extention. The nation set back and let Bush and Cheney get away with murder and now the conservatives want toact like saints and hold Obama’s feet to the fire???!!!! Whats wrong wi th th is picture???


May 27th, 2011
2:23 pm

“Oh that’s right, if you are Republican you can break all the rules; be unethical; and be a FRAUD and it is okay.”

Is that better Retired Soldier?

What is the status of Graves’ meth/roach motel loan scam anyway? Any updates?

Frederick Douglass

May 27th, 2011
2:25 pm

What are they gonna question next, the prospect that he uses Northern, instead of Laura Lynn toilet tissue to wipe his butt?

Tom Cat Graves

May 27th, 2011
2:31 pm

I should have used that auto sign pen when I gave my personal guarantee on that $2.2 million loan from the bank that I’m trying to wiggle out of – I could have said it wasn’t constitutional.
I think next I will call for hearings on the JFK shooting, something funny about that grassy knoll………did they ever find Jimmy Hoffa…….oh and how about that cover up in Roswell with the aliens – I bet they came across the border and not from outer space mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Danny O

May 27th, 2011
2:33 pm


Here’s the breakdown on Democratic support for Afghanistan war under Obama. 85 House members voted to pull out within a year, 99 voted against. Republican score was 8-222; grand total was 93-321. Here’s a link to the roll call on House Concurrent Resolution 28 from March 17th:


May 27th, 2011
2:41 pm

Somebody explain to me how someone can go through life constantly outraged about something. Doesn’t seem like a pleasant existance.

Original Thought not Necessary

May 27th, 2011
2:44 pm

Retired Soldier,

Answering a question with a question? Really?

That’s the best you can do?????



May 27th, 2011
3:00 pm

Go Tom go! Take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Danny O

May 27th, 2011
3:03 pm

We can (and do) disagree, but there’s no reason to resort to name calling. I hope folks can keep it civil. Not my blog, but I’m just sayin.


May 27th, 2011
3:08 pm


Not address the issue, is that the best you can do?


May 27th, 2011
3:10 pm

Danny o-

My point w/ orginal was both sides can be hypocritial. Budget, I agree, does Orginal agree w/ war protesters?

Danny O

May 27th, 2011
3:13 pm

Perhaps Original did not feel the need to address the issue because I already did.


May 27th, 2011
3:15 pm

Danny O-

No you didn’t, I not talking about elected officals, the war protesters that camped outside of Bush’s ranch etc. Where are they? They are a key componet of the democratic party. They have given Obama a pass.

Real Athens

May 27th, 2011
3:29 pm

Ask and collector of presidential documents — the autopen has been used by every single president since Harry Truman. Thomas Jefferson was an ex-president when he first used a crude design in 1804.

Total non-issue.

Booger Fling

May 27th, 2011
3:33 pm

ATLER – “The nation set back and let Bush and Cheney get away with murder and now the conservatives want toact like saints and hold Obama’s feet to the fire???!!!! Whats wrong wi th th is picture???”

The fact that you are not paying attention to the big picture ATLER. It doesn’t matter which party passed the Snoop Act. The fact of the matter is BOTH sides are FOR it.

When will America wake up and realize it doesn’t matter, Republican or Democrat, our constitution is being ripped to pieces. So many of our rights are being violated by both sides. And it will continue as long as the American people are caught up in this fake political format that keeps us all DIVIDED on every issue because of “party loyalty”.

So ATLER there’s nothing wrong with the picture… You just haven’t opened your eyes to see it yet.

no rights

May 27th, 2011
3:43 pm

more rights taken away with an auto pen? not good.


May 27th, 2011
4:14 pm

While we’re on the subject of Mr. Graves, query: He and his business partner, Mr. Rogers, borrowed $2.2mil to purchase and renovate a hotel up in Gordon County. According to recent court filings (in the lawsuit filed by Bartow County Bank), about $1.4mil was used to purchase the property, but the property was never renovated. So, what happened to the remaining $800k? Graves and Rogers insist that they were defrauded by a contractor, but are purportedly refusing to divulge any infomration related to this “contractor” or any bank accounts that would show how the money was used. I see dark clouds looming on the horizon.


May 27th, 2011
5:26 pm

The Bush Administration involved idiots following ignoramuses. Anything the Office of Legal Waterboarding came up with during this period was inherently self-serving and likely illegal. So now we have the President having a proxy to sign things? Let’s just use autotune on the speeches so they sound right, too.


May 27th, 2011
5:31 pm

Tom Graves is a dumbass! Really…is this the best he has to offer??


May 27th, 2011
5:57 pm

Ride up I-75 to exit 315 and see the remnants of this hotel that is the subject of the lawsuit. I personally wonder if the bank or court has seen it since it closed a few months back. It has been basically stripped bare, anything of scrap value appears to have been sold (aluminum railings, window trims, metal doors, wire, plumbing, etc).

I have read and seen a lot of the press about the story, but am convinced that there is something far deeper that we may never learn.


May 27th, 2011
6:04 pm

AngelaTC You are teasing, I assume because the Supreme Court already settled this matter.

Last Man Standing

May 27th, 2011
7:03 pm


EVERYBODY gives Obama a “pass”. It began during his campaign when the lamestream media put him front and center with nothing but positive media coverage, and it continues today.


May 27th, 2011
7:14 pm

It amazes me that people like SICK actually believe this all this crap and ride around 24-7 spouting it. while I vote republican, i dont think sanford bishop bishop is bad because he is a dem, nor Mayor Reed. I didnt like Presdient Monica Clinton that much but I never in my wildest dreams accused him of going into Somolia for a politcal purpose but to correct an injustice becauase he is a democrat nor do i think Bush or Roosevelt knew ahead of time an attack on American soil was coming. Sick, please go back and make sure you sweep my office before you go home tonight

Thomas E. Fraysse

May 27th, 2011
7:40 pm

The issue raised by Tom Graves raises more questions about Mr. Graves than the autopen. Is there any difference between President Obama applying a wet signature to a facsimile versus the President authorizing the placement of his signature on the document? And certainly, at the level of government that we are dealing with, is there any significant chance that the wrong document or an altered document would be substituted for the genuine article? Even if the wrong or an altered document was signed mechanically, does Mr. Graves believe that it could not be immediately addressed? One big question for Mr. Graves: Are things that slow in Georgia?


May 27th, 2011
7:43 pm

Obama deserves a pass,positive media coverage.After all he is the president of USA,and will remain president.

Last Man Standing

May 27th, 2011
8:30 pm

“Obama deserves a pass,positive media coverage.After all he is the president of USA,and will remain president.”

He is the president precisely because the media gave him much more than a pass when he was running for the office. The ‘lamestream media’ never questioned him about his association with a known domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers. They ’softballed’ him on Jeremiah (Naw, naw, naw: GD America) Wright. They never questioned him about his self-admitted partiality towards Marxist professors, and never questioned him about his beliefs stated in his ghost-written books.

Obama got far more than his share of ‘passes’, and the country will pay dearly for it.

Serious Robuck

May 27th, 2011
9:06 pm

Last Man, are you drunk again, old buddy? You must be. You’re referring to Obama as “Obama.” Where is the anger, the outrage, the courage of Last Man? Where is the scream of “HUSSEIN?”

W got the passes, old buddy. Elected by the Republican members of the Supreme Court. Never questioned about his “Alabama Air National Guard” service. Never questioned seriously about the handouts to political cronies like Halliburton who “rebuilt” Iraq with billions of taxpayer dollars with no bid contracts that he kept off the books. Never questioned appropriately about squandering a surplus and never asking his rich cronies to sacrifice sons or money to pay for his wars. Never questioned about his destruction of the Christian community in Iraq, 4000 dead soldiers, 5000 fatherless children, and untold destroyed lives. People like you make me sick, Last Man. You’re an idiot, and probably, as Danny X has suggested, drunk.

I’ve said it before. You are an idiot. That’s name calling, I know.
And in your case, it’s appropriate and accurate.

Where do you get your talking points, Last Man? Oh yeah, you’re the one who listens to Rush.


May 27th, 2011
10:37 pm

This silly demagogueing is enough to get Graves voters distracted from his own real ethical shortcomings.

phil c

May 27th, 2011
11:39 pm

I heard a rumor that Tom Graves picked his nose once, and in public! OH….MY….GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last Man Standing

May 28th, 2011
11:35 am

Serious Robuck:

Are we still in Iraq? Are we still in Afghanistan? Are there more military dead still being brought home? Have other children become fatherless under Obama’s administration? Are we still spending huge amounts of money on war? What did Obama say he was going to do about this as he campaigned? Has he kept that campaign promise?

W. was questioned and accused about his service in the Air Guard by all the national news media. I seemed to have forgotten in which branch of the military Obama served. Could you refresh my memory on that? After all the dust had settled on W’s election, it was determined that he did receive more votes that Gore in Florida, and we didn’t even RECOUNT the other 49 states. Or, should I have said, “the other 57 states”? By the way, I believe Obama is also using Halliburton. Does Obama have “cronies” there, too?

As far as your “idiot” remark, you are in error. It is you, not I, who voted for Obama. That makes you a fool of the first order.

Last Man Standing

May 28th, 2011
1:35 pm

Serious Robuck:

I should have added that one of your fair-haired liberal “newscasters” had a slight problem with an outright lie he told in regard to W’s military service. Dan Rather had to pack his bags when his lie was exposed.

Your man (at that time) Al (I invented the internet) Gore claimed to have “walked in the elephant grass”. IF he did, he probably was escorted by some real combat troops.


May 28th, 2011
2:42 pm

“Graves said he was aware that the Office of Legal Counsel, under President George W. Bush, issued an opinion declaring that the practice is constitutional.”

Ah the Bush legacy lives on. No President in U.S. history has done as much lasting damage. Not Nixon, not Carter, not (yet) the current imcumbent. Ever wonder why Republican politicians at all levels never, ever, mention his name.


May 28th, 2011
3:43 pm

History will neither remember our President as the best or the worst.
Rep. Graves was elected by a constituency that sadly espouses party over country. He will not be remembered at all unless, for some reason yet unknown, his financial dealings yield a criminal disposition.
But Rep. Graves is correct to question the Autopen. Presidents should lay their hand upon laws that affect our lives. If the presidential function is unimportant enough to be delegated, then delegation should occur. But the person responsible should not have any deniability when it comes to matters of state.

Last Man Standing

May 28th, 2011
4:34 pm

“Ah the Bush legacy lives on. No President in U.S. history has done as much lasting damage. Not Nixon, not Carter, not (yet) the current imcumbent.”

Bush will not even get an “Honorable Mention” as the worst U.S. President. The worst is Obama followed by Carter, Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

May 28th, 2011
7:14 pm

Trash, elected by trash. Moran, elected by morans.


May 28th, 2011
10:03 pm

Roosevelt? Really? Name calling is little more than an interruption of debate, but 99.9 percent of anybody with a brain would be excited to hear intelligent reasons as to how he could be on anybody’s “worst” list. He’s usually ranked 2nd after Lincoln due to his masterful leadership in WWII and (I’m sure the canned stuff will rebut this one) worked tirelessly to end the depression starting programs that not only got people off soup lines but shored up national infrastructure that was the underpinnings of the massive prosperity of the next 50 years.
Sounds like the Koolaid got too warm.

Serious Robuck

May 28th, 2011
10:35 pm

As an Irishman, I’ll tell you Moran is a good Irish name. I think you mean MORON, as in George W Bush.

Ag Nostic

May 29th, 2011
12:37 am

Graves is obviously an idiot, which makes him right at home in Congress. However, he has a ways to go in order to catch Paul Broun and Senator Inhofe.

Capitol Idea

May 29th, 2011
8:12 am

Didn’t Tom Graves sign a contract making him responsible for payment of a 2.2 million dollar loan used for the purchase of real estate. If only he had autopenned.


May 31st, 2011
9:01 am

The point of having the President sign a bill into law is to show his approval and acceptance of the new law. It isn’t intended to be a physical challenge or a test of ingenuity.

Congress passed the renewal of the law. Obama wanted to sign the bill into law, and used the autopen. If congress had an issue with him using this method, they should have passed the bill with a reasonable time to get it to him to sign before the deadline.

On the flip side, Graves has a legitimate question about the use of an alternative signing method. It would be awful to have hundreds of bills signed into law, and then have a legal challenge overturn them because the courts aren’t as willing to accept the autopen method of signing as was the Office of Legal Counsel. Let’s get it cleared up know before it becomes more of an issue.

As I read the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion, all Obama actually needed to do was tell someone to affix his signature to the bill. He didn’t even need to use the autopen. Is this how we want this done or should there be established rules to protect the process and our country?

BTW, did Graves vote for the bill?