President Barack Obama signed the legislation that enacts a last-minute budget deal and averts income tax increases for most U.S. workers, marking an end to a yearlong impasse.
The legislation was sent to the White House today and a copy was transmitted to Obama in Hawaii, where he’s vacationing with his family. The president’s signature was put on the legislation by an autopen signing machine in Washington.
The legislation passed the House and Senate yesterday and it delays the automatic spending cuts by two months and raises taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year and households making more than $450,000.
Obama last night called it “just one step” in a process to shrink the deficit, which has exceeded $1 trillion in each of the last four years, and strengthen the economy.
Obama has used a mechanical autopen to sign legislation into law at least twice before.
While at a meeting of Asian leaders Indonesia in 2011 the president authorized the use of the autopen to put his signature on legislation to fund the government. It also was used the same year to sign an extension of the Patriot Act while Obama was at a summit in France of leaders of the world’s industrial nations.
A July 7, 2005, opinion by the Justice Department under then-President George W. Bush argued that a president can sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution “by directing a subordinate to affix the president’s signature to it, for example by autopen.”
The document cites common law and court opinions at the time the Constitution was drafted and thereafter holding that “personal handwriting” isn’t required to render a legal signature.
The 29-page opinion concludes “that 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.”