Graves: Explain Constitutional authority of autopen

A Republican Congressman from Georgia is questioning President Obama’s use of an “autopen”to sign into law the “PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.”

In a letter to Obama, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., asked whether the law “was presented to you prior to the autopen signing, as well as a detailed, written explanation of your Constitutional authority to assign a surrogate the responsibility of signing bills passed by Congress into law.”

In a statement, Graves said he is “aware of a 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that using an autopen is Constitutional,” adding “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.”

Obama was in Europe at the time of the signing.

“I thought it was a joke at first, but the President did, in fact, authorize an autopen to sign the Patriot Act extension into law. Consider the dangerous precedent this sets,” Graves said. “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?” Graves said. “I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.”

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