HONOLULU — Passing legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff” — and undo income tax increases for most Americans — was hardly automatic. But signing the bill was.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday authorized the use of the “autopen” to enact H.R. 8, the compromise bill approved by lawmakers in the 11th hour after a long stalemate to avert the set of tax increases and budget cuts known as the fiscal cliff.
House aides said the American Taxpayer Relief Act was delivered to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, well after the president had left to resume his holiday vacation in his native state of Hawaii.
Rather than having the bill delivered to him, delaying its enactment, Obama directed his office to affix his signature using a mechanical device. A July 2005 memo from the Justice Department states that a 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.”
It is not the first time the president has used the autopen to sign legislation. One previous example was in May 2011, when it was used to sign an extension of the Patriot Act, while the president traveled overseas.