Autopens: Legitimate or No?

The Burgher of Bong has been unusually silent of late, probably because Mandarin loaded him up with extra work. The Czar doesn’t pretend to understand what it is, but they have this new device that shoots blue rings of light out at the moon. No clue. Anway, Burgher writes in:

Mighty Czar,

Where is a good Constitutional Law professor when we need one?

Article I Sec. 7 of the U.S. Constitution:

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, 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….

It doesn’t matter if it’s a good law, or necessary to avert careening off the fiscal cliff or to save the whales or whatever.

  1. A revenue bill can not originate in the Senate.
  2. The president must sign a bill for it to become Law.

If it’s forgery or something when a bank uses an autopen on a mortgage. So how can it be ok when POTUS does it?

And yes, I’ve read the memo from Justice. To save you the trouble, it contains the words:

Neither the constitutional text nor the drafting and ratification debates provide further guidance regarding what it means for the President to “sign” a bill he approves.


The memo goes on for almost 30 pages, explaining that country bumpkins in 17th century England were sometimes semi-literate, and that POTUS did not personally sign the Holiday Greeting card he sent your family.

This doesn’t look to me like a ‘gray area’ or a question of what a ‘well-regulated militia’ means or anything else but an attempt to establish a precedent that the simple plain meaning of the single most important document in our nation can be ignored whenever it suits us – or whoever happens to be holding the autopen…

This seems to me a very bad precedent to set.


The Burgher of Bong

P.S. Two of my personal heroes: Gregory Watson and Don W. Wilson – even though I now understand they were acting under your orders…

P.P.S. I see that the bill was crammed into the shell of H.R. 8, thus, technically, it originated in the House. Fine. I roll my eyes, but that’s ok – it’s how it’s supposed to work and shows some respect for the founding document. But this makes obj. 2 all the more serious….

One hopes the “Con law professor” comments was not directed at the President; he was never a professor—only a guest lecturer.

You are correct that revenue bills cannot originate in the Senate; this is one of the gifts left for us in the majority opinion for Obamacare. Because Obamacare is tax that originated in the Senate, we need merely wait until those provisions kicks in and then the Supreme Court can shut it all down again. But that’s in the future.

The Czar cannot determine whether the use of an autopen somehow invalidates the President’s signature. Presently, there is precedent for the use of an autopen as a legal signatory device, but to our knowledge no predecent of a President later refusing to acknowledge a bill he signed because he used an autopen. It’s just another tool to get work done.

On the other hand, there are stipulated regulations preventing the use of copy-and-pasted signatures in mortgages but for very different reasons. There are no such stipulations against a physical presidential signature versus what is ultimately a .jpg file being attached to a document. So far, this stands unchallenged in place of a real signature. The Czar uses electronic signatures all the time. For one thing, his actual signature is quite cool looking and the Czar likes to see consistency in that coolness. An electronic signature achieves just that and in most cases is indeed legally binding.

You may not like the lack of dignity the President gives to some legislation versus others, but for the Czar he is not concerned about the use of the autopen. The Czar finds many more things incredibly objectionable about the President and his management style; the autopen is not among them.

However, the Czar welcomes other readers to comment on this. Big deal? No big deal? You tell us. The Burgher and the Czar would be most interested in your thoughts yea or nay.

(And for the record, the Czar does not think the Burgher of Bong is ridiculous for objecting to this. It is an interesting legal question and the Czar retains an open mind.)

P.S. There is a legitimate, unanswered question about the Second Amendment’s wording? News to us. Hell, the Czar spoke 18th Century English when it was the 18th Century; the wording and implications are quite clear.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.