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Graves Questions Obama On Autopen

Washington, D.C., May 27, 2011 -

This morning, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09), sent a letter to President Barack Obama questioning his authority to “assign a surrogate the responsibility of signing bills passed by Congress into law.”  The question arises from the White House’s confirmation yesterday that President Obama authorized an autopen to sign the “PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.”  Rep. Graves issued the following statement about the letter:

“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.  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.

“I am aware of a 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that using an autopen is Constitutional, but 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.”

Rep. Graves voted against the S. 990, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.

Text of Rep. Graves’ letter to President Obama


Dear Mr. President:

Yesterday, May 26, 2011, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed S. 990, the “PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.”  Shortly before midnight, the White House press secretary released a statement that you signed the bill into law.

However, ABC News reported a statement from White House spokesman Nick Shapiro that, at your order, an autopen signed the bill.

Article I, section 7 of the United States Constitution states:

“Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it…”

Mr. President, I write to request your confirmation that S. 990, as passed by Congress, 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.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.  I look forward to your response. 


Tom Graves
Member of Congress

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