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President Barack Obama signs 'fiscal cliff' bill with autopen

9:36 AM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
President Obama(Photo: Brendan Hoffman, Getty Images)
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President Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, employed an autopen to sign the "fiscal cliff" bill late Wednesday night, the third time he has used such a device.

In a statement, the White House said officials received the bill from Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon, Washington time.

"A copy was delivered to the president for review," the White House statement said. "He then directed the bill be signed by autopen."

The legislation, approved Tuesday by the Senate and House, after days and weeks of contentious negotiations, blocked some of the tax hikes associated with the fiscal cliff that were due to take effect on Jan. 1.

The legislation also delayed automatic spending cuts for two months, setting up the possibility of another big budget battle in February.

Obama has used an autopen to sign two other pieces of legislation, both times when he was overseas.

While the autopen process has its critics, the administration cites a Justice Department opinion from 2005 -- the George W. Bush administration -- saying it is legal.

"We conclude 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," the Justice Department opinion said.

"Rather," it added, "the president may sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 by directing a subordinate to affix the president's signature to such a bill, for example by autopen."

USA Today

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