Of all the bills to auto-sign...meanwhile much of congress doesn't even bother to read the bills they vote on...


It turns out all those bill signings that reporters, lawmakers and even presidents have suffered through over the years are entirely unnecessary. In fact, according to the White House, the president doesn’t have to sign or even lay eyes on a piece of legislation for it to become law.

That’s what happened late Thursday night in Washington when White House aides used a machine called an autopen to “sign” President Obama’s name to the Patriot Act extension Congress passed that day. Obama was in France at the G8 summit and directed his staff to apply his signature to the bill. It’s the first time he’s ever “signed” a bill in such a fashion, aides say.

Time was of the essence in signing the Patriot Act extension because the surveillance and investigative measures it renews were to expire at midnight Thursday. Administration officials said an expiration of those authorities for even hours would cause significant problems.

The Constitution, unsurprisingly, makes no mention of autopens or robo-signing. It says that a bill “shall, before it become 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.” However, Obama aides point to a 2005 opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that concluded that, despite the Constitution’s requirements, a bill need not be physically presented to the president or actually signed by him to become law.