Autopen for Fiscal Cliff Deal, Not for Defense Reauthorization

The fiscal cliff deal negotiated between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) officially got the autopen treatment from President Obama.


Obama quickly hopped on a plane to Hawaii after the House passed H.R. 8 late on New Year’s Day, not sticking around for the bill to be delivered by Congress.

On Wednesday, the president signed “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012,” which makes permanent the temporary rates on taxable income at or below $400,000 for individual filers and $450,000 for married individuals filing jointly; permanently indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount to the Consumer Price Index; extends emergency unemployment compensation benefits and Federal funding for extended benefits for unemployed workers for one year; continues current law Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services furnished through December 31, 2013; extends farm bill policies and programs through September 30, 2013; and provides a postponement of the Budget Control Act’s sequester for two month.

Well, he sort of signed it.

The White House confirmed to the press pool that a copy of the bill was sent to Obama for review, and he directed it be signed by autopen.


However, the auto pen was not used for the National Defense Authorization Act, which was also signed into law yesterday. It was delivered by Congress over the weekend and was brought with Obama to Hawaii.

The White House said the autpen has been used twice before to sign bills — Obama was the first to use it to sign a bill into law, in 2011 — and directed reporters to a 2005 Justice Department opinion on the subject.

“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,” the memo said.

Obama spent most of yesterday playing golf. He’s not in Washington today for the beginning of the 113th Congress.


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