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Entries in PATRIOT Act (10)

Friday
Jun172011

House Republicans Ask Obama To Re-Sign Patriot Act

Official White House Photo(WASHINGTON) -- A group of House Republicans are calling on President Obama to re-sign the Patriot Act extension, this time with his own hand, and to vow never again to use an autopen to sign bills into law. The machine holds a pen and replicates the president's actual signature mechanically. A letter from 21 lawmakers to the president Friday reignites the debate over the constitutionality of using the device to sign legislation.

"Mr. President, it is clear that assigning a surrogate the responsibility of signing bills passed by Congress is a debatable issue, and could be challenged in court.  That being the case, our request is that, out of an abundance of caution, you affix your signature to S. 990 by personally re-signing the enrolled bill," the letter reads. "Furthermore, we ask that you commit to ending the practice of using an autopen to sign bills passed by Congress."

Congress passed the four-year extension of the Patriot Act in May. The only problem was the president was in France, meeting with G8 leaders, and the bill's provisions were set to expire at midnight.  

The White House decided that the president would the autopen, which is supposed to be used only with proper authorization from the president.

Article 1, 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..."

At the time, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro seemed to suggest this was a special circumstance. "Failure to sign this legislation posed a significant risk to U.S. national security," Shapiro said. "The President directed the use of the autopen to sign it."

In the past, the Obama administration has used an abundance of caution. The president re-took the Oath of Office on January 21, 2009 over concerns for adhering to the Constitution after a flub during his original oath at the inauguration.

The authors of the letter referenced the re-do, tell the president they "believe your signing legislation passed by the United States Congress is of equal importance."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May272011

Autopen Controversy: Should Presidents Use It to Sign Bills?

Photos.com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the Patriot Act set to expire Thursday night, President Obama signed legislation extending it -- from France. How did he do that? Using an autopen, of course.

Article 1, 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..."

It needs to be "presented" to him, and if he approves it "he shall sign it."

"Failure to sign this legislation posed a significant risk to U.S. national security," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "The president directed the use of the autopen to sign it."

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., wrote to the president Friday questioning whether an autopen is good enough. To reporters, Graves said the autopen move set a "dangerous precedent." What if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, he asked. "Can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing?"

The Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was asked at a press conference if he thought that the use of the autopen would pass legal muster.

"I think that's a better question addressed to them," McConnell said. "They did the research and their lawyers apparently advised them that this was permissible. I haven't looked at the legality of it and therefore don’t have an opinion to express on it."

In 2005, President George W. Bush was told by his Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice that he could use an autopen given "the legal understanding of the word 'sign' at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic. We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another."

This, the OLC found, was supported by opinions of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice "addressing statutory signing requirements in a variety of contexts. Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7...We emphasize that we are not suggesting that the President may delegate the decision to approve and sign a bill, only that, having made this decision, he may direct a subordinate to affix the President's signature to the bill."

Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says President Bush's White House did solicit the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2005 about the use of the autopen to sign legislation but he never used it.

"When necessary, the actual bills were flown to him accompanied by someone from the staff secretary's office for his live signature," Fleischer recalls. "Thought was given to using the autopen on a 'minor' piece of legislation to establish a precedent in case there was ever a legal challenge.  However, it was never done."

Fleischer says, "I think the Obama Administration is on solid ground, but they are taking somewhat of a risk that the autopen will be challenged in court. Using it for the first time on major legislation carries some risk." He adds that he "love(s) the irony of the Obama White House now following Bush's OLC opinions, but that's a different matter."

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

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Congress Passes Patriot Act Extension; Obama Won't Personally Sign

The White House

UPDATE:  The White House confirms that President Obama has signed the Patriot Act extension into law via use of autopen.

(WASHINGTON) -- Congress officially passed an extension of the Patriot Act Thursday night, just hours before key provisions of the national security law were due to lapse at midnight.

President Obama, currently on an overseas trip, is not at the White House to sign the bill, a requirement for the measure to become law.  

So the White House will use an autopen -- a machine that replicates Obama’s signature -- to sign the extension, according to White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.

"Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. As long as Congress approves the extension, the President will direct the use of the autopen to sign it," Shapiro said in a statement.

Jay Wexler, a Boston University law professor and author of The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions, says the constitutionality of using an autopen was confirmed in a thorough 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion.

Here's the relevant passage written by then-Deputy Attorney General Howard C. Nielson:

“We examine the legal understanding of the word 'sign' at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic.  We find that, pursuant to this understanding, a person may sign a document by directing that his signature be affixed to it by another....Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 [of the Constitution.]"

Copyriht 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Senate Passes Extension of Patriot Act Provisions, Sends to House

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Thursday evening passed a four-year extension of expiring Patriot Act provisions, only hours before they were due to lapse at midnight.

The Senate voted 72-23 on final passage of the bill. The measure now moves on to the House, which is expected to approve the extension in the next few hours. It will then go to President Obama for his signature.

The vote came after Senate leaders reached an agreement with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. The agreement stipulated that a final vote on passage of the Patriot Act extension could occur if the Senate also voted on two amendments offered by Paul.

One of his amendments sought to clarify that the authority to obtain info under the Patriot Act did not include the authority to obtain certain gun records.

“I think it’s very important that we protect the rights of gun owners in our country not only for hunting, but for self-protection, and that the records of those in our country who own guns should be secret,” Paul said on the Senate floor before the vote. “I don’t think the government, well-intentioned or not well-intentioned, should be sifting through millions of records of gun owners.”

Another amendment attempted to make financial firms issue suspicious activity reports only in certain cases when initiated by an appropriate law enforcement agency.

“My Visa bill sometimes have been $5,000," Paul said. "Sometimes we pay for them over the phone, which is a wire transfer. Have I been investigated by my government? I don’t know. It’s secret. What I want are protections.”

Ultimately, both of Paul’s amendments failed to advance in the Senate.

The feud between Paul and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the days leading up to this evening’s final vote led to fears that the Patriot Act provisions – despite bipartisan support for them – would not be extended before the midnight deadline.

But in the end, the feud in the Senate was resolved, the Senate passed the provisions and sent them along to the House, leaving the Obama administration and 72 senators pleased. The Senate is now set to leave for its week-long Memorial Day recess.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Patriot Act Passes Key Vote

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday voted to pass three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, but the provisions could still lapse at the end of the day if Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky insists on 30 hours of debate before allowing a final vote.

On the back of resounding bipartisan support, the four-year extension survived the procedural vote by a count of 79-18.

The Patriot Act extensions continue powers for investigators in national security cases to conduct "roving" wiretaps, seek certain business records, and gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group.

The problem is not support, however, but time. The provisions are set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Once the Senate passes them, they will still have to be approved by the House. That is why the bill’s chief advocates, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, have cautioned that time is of the essence. If Congress does not reauthorize the provisions in time, then "that is not good for the world," Reid warned Wednesday evening.

What will happen next is unclear. The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, emphasized that "nothing in this extension has ever been found to be unconstitutional," telling his colleagues that it is "absolutely imperative" that they pass the extension. But the Senate can only waive some of the 30 hours of debate if every senator agrees to do so, including Paul.

"If one person wants to be a demagogue, he can do that," Reid said Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Provisions of Patriot Act Set to Expire at Midnight

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Congress has until midnight Thursday to renew several provisions of the Patriot Act, the country's counterterrorism law that was passed after 9/11.

If passed, the measure would extend powers for investigators in national security cases to conduct roving wiretaps, seek certain business records, and gather intelligence on "lone wolf" suspected terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says intelligence officials need to catch so-called "lone wolf" terrorists and those using throw-away phones.

"The bill is essential to what we do to protect ourselves," Reid says.

He has been frustrated by delays in opposition from Republican freshman Rand Paul of Kentucky, who wants changes that he says are needed to better protect Americans constitutional rights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb152011

Senate Opts for Three-Month Patriot Act Extension

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Tuesday night passed a three-month extension of the three provisions in the Patriot Act set to expire at the month’s end. The vote was 86-12.
 
The 12 senators voting against the extension included two Republicans -- Rand Paul and Mike Lee -- and 10 Democrats -- Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Sherrod Brown, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders, Jon Tester, and Tom Udall.
 
On Monday the House had passed an extension until Dec. 8, but the Senate instead opted for a far shorter extension that only runs through May 27. Now the two chambers will have to agree on a time period before the provisions expire on Feb. 28. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb152011

On Second Try, House Passes PATRIOT Act Extension

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It took an extra six days, but the House of Representatives passed a measure Monday evening extending three provisions in the PATRIOT Act set to expire at the end of the month.

The vote passed by a final tally of 275-144. Twenty-seven Republicans voted against the measure, while 65 Democrats supported its passage.

The measure extends powers for investigators in national security cases to conduct “roving” wiretaps, to seek certain business records and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group.

The House-passed bill extends the provisions until December 8, 2011, giving Congress more time to review the impact of the legislation before considering a long-term extension. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that if the House and Senate fail to come to an agreement to extend the expiring provisions, it could prevent the intelligence needed to stop the next attack from being collected.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb092011

Patriot Games: Congressional Leaders Blindsided By Failed Vote

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Obama and Republican Congressional leaders sit down to lunch Wednesday, their respective parties Tuesday night showed just how tough this new era of bipartisanship will be.

Neither party could muster the votes needed to pass an extension of the Patriot Act, the country’s counterterrorism law.  In a 277-148 vote, the House of Representatives fell a few votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to extend several key provisions of the law.

The provisions of the act, which has been something of a legislative hot potato since it was first passed in the wake of Sept. 11, deal with roving wiretaps, granting authorities wider access to records and property during terrorism investigations, and so-called “lone wolf” provisions, which approve surveillance of suspected terrorists not linked to a specific terrorist organization.

Republican leaders said they plan to hold another vote on the measure before the end of the month.

Both the White House and the GOP leadership supported the extension, and it’s sure to be a topic of discussion when President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet Speaker Boehner, Republican leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip McCarthy Wednesday.

“I think that the president looks forward to discussing all issues, foreign and domestic,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, previewing Wednesday's lunch.  “Obviously, without a doubt there'll be, I think, a heavy discussion on the economy and on spending.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb082011

House Defeats Extension of PATRIOT Act Provisions

Photo Courtesy - Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives fell a few votes short Tuesday night of passing HR 514 -- the Patriot Act Extension.

The vote, 277-148, failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority it needed to pass under the rules of suspensions. It fell just seven votes short of a two-thirds majority of those voting and present.

In a largely bipartisan vote, 67 House Democrats voted in favor of its passage while 26 Republicans opposed the extension.

The extension would have prevented three provisions of the somewhat controversial law from expiring at the end of the month. The provisions, nearing an expiration deal with court-approved roving wiretaps, grant the FBI access to library archives and anything else considered relevant to a terrorism investigation.

While some Republicans with Tea Party affiliation opposed the bill, its defeat at first glance does not seem to be completely attributable to them. Veteran GOP members like 20-term Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and 10-term Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., also voted against the extension.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 







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