President Obama used his “autopen” Friday to sign legislation extending the government’s authority to keep highway and transit funds flowing to states temporarily.
The president was in Malaysia for a summit when he “signed” the measure into law — actually giving his authorization for the autopen to duplicate his signature.
The transportation funding authority was set to expire Friday; the extension approved by Congress this week gives lawmakers until Dec. 4 to complete a long-term funding bill.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama was acting under legal precedent established under the administration of George W. Bush, who never actually used the autopen. The Office of Legal Counsel said in 2005 that Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution allows the president to use the autopen to sign legislation, stating “the president need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it.”
Mr. Obama is the only president ever to use the mechanical device to sign legislation, and it’s at least the sixth time he has done so. He first used the autopen in May 2011, when he signed an extension of the Patriot Act while in Europe at a G-8 summit.
The president also used it to sign the “fiscal cliff” legislation in January 2013 while he was vacationing in Hawaii.
The legality of using the autopen to sign legislation has never been tested in court. Mr. Obama also has used the device to sign presidential proclamations.