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