Entries in Auto-Pen (2)


Vacationing Obama’s Options to Sign ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Include Air Force Jet, Autopen

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congress officially delivered the bill to avert the fiscal cliff to the White House Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner’s office told ABC News.

Now the question is when will the president sign it?

The bill, passed late on New Year’s Day, expires Thursday at 11:59 a.m. when the current session of Congress concludes. If President Obama doesn’t sign it by then, constitutionally the bill is dead.

But Wednesday evening, eighteen hours before the deadline, the president is on a golf course in Hawaii.  And the bill is in Washington at the White House.

Administration officials won’t say what they will do despite repeated inquiries from ABC News.

There seem to be two options:  1) An Air Force jet can deliver the bill to Hawaii in time for the president to sign it before 11:59 Eastern Standard Time; or, 2) the White House can use a presidential “auto-pen.”

The simple mechanical device uses a template of the presidential signature to scrawl it on paper if activated by the White House at Obama’s direction.

But would an auto-pen – usually used to sign insignificant correspondence and photographs – pass constitutional muster?  We don’t know.  The question has never been tested by the courts.

A 2005 legal study commissioned by former President George W. Bush determined that use of the autopen is constitutional but acknowledged the possibility that its use could be challenged.  Bush never used the autopen, officials from his administration told ABC.

President Obama is only believed to have used the autopen once to sign a piece of major legislation — the 2011 extension of the Patriot Act — which reached his desk while he was on a diplomatic trip to Europe. Officials invoked national security concerns to justify the move.

Use of the autopen has been controversial.  Conservative groups alleged last summer that Obama used an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of Navy SEALs killed in a Chinook crash in Afghanistan — a charge the White House disputed flatly as false.

In 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was criticized for using an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of fallen troops.

And in 1992 then-Vice President Dan Quayle got into some hot water over his use of the autopen on official correspondence during an appearance on This Week with David Brinkley. More HERE.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Disputes 'Auto-Pen' Used for Letters to Soldiers’ Grieving Families

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Thursday disputed the suggestion that the president had used an auto-pen to sign condolence letters to the families of Navy SEALs killed in a Chinook crash in Afghanistan last year.

“The President personally signs every letter to the families of fallen service members in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, “and he has said many times that it is one of the most difficult parts of his job and a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.”

The story that the president used an auto-pen to sign form letters was first posted in a blog from The Gateway Pundit, which -- relating concerns and frustrations of a grieving family -- posted letters from the president to Karen and Billy Vaughn, parents of the late SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, and letters to other parents of SEALs killed in that Aug. 6, 2011 crash, asserting that the letters were “form letters -- signed by an electric pen.”

Tweeted Donald Trump Thursday with a link to the Gateway Pundit story, “Too busy playing golf? @BarackObama sends form letters with an electronic signature to the parents of fallen SEALs.”

The Chinook crash killed 30 Americans and eight Afghans, representing the deadliest single incident in the war. Later that month, President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta traveled to Dover and attended the dignified transfer ceremony.

The White House did not dispute that the letters were form letters, but that apparently is not unique to this president. A 2003 Newsweek story reported that the sympathy letters grieving families had received from President George W. Bush were “form letters. With the exception of the salutation and a reference to the fallen soldier in the text, the letters the families shared with me are all the same.”

But in December 2008, John Solomon of the Washington Times reported that as part of a private effort to comfort the families of those killed in war and during 9/11, then-President Bush sent personal letters to the families of “every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in 2004, was criticized for using an auto-pen to sign condolence letters to the families of fallen troops. At the time he issued a statement saying, “I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action. While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio