Pro Logica

June 18, 2011

Stupidity in Congress?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Ron Toczek @ 6:31 pm

There appears to be a letter sent by twenty-one Representatives given to the POTUS asking him to sign the extension of the Patriot Act.  The facts, as I understand them, are thus:

Congress passed a bill extending the Patriot Act and sent it to the POTUS, but he was out of the country at the time and would not be back in time to sign the bill into law before the existing Patriot Act expires.  The POTUS then signed the bill into law through the use of an autopen (surrogate?).

Whatever the actual mechanics of this procedure, the POTUS did not actually sign the bill and this procedure was used by Bush during his presidency even though there were objections.

While these Representatives correctly cited the Constitution’s requirement for the POTUS’ signature, they must not have read the entire section.  Further on, in the same paragraph, it states that if the POTUS does not veto the bill within ten days of its submission, the bill becomes law if Congress be in session at that time or does not become law if Congress is not in session.  Nowhere in the letter is this latter provision of the Constitution mentioned.

Now, I don’t know the date on which this bill was sent to the POTUS nor do I know whether Congress was in session ten (does time of day matter?) days later, but if Congress was in session at the end of ten days then the POTUS’ signature is redundant and not necessary for enactment of the law and the POTUS does not have to answer the letter.  If Congress was not in session then there could be a question at to the legality of the law, but in this case there is precedence for the process.

Clearly, the situation is one which is not explicitly covered by the Constitution and if these Congressmen are concerned about the process used to sign the bill into law, they should, as the Constitution instructs, pass a bill which prescribes the lawful method with which the POTUS can sign bills into law under impracticable circumstances.

As I see it, the situation is so straightforward that the authors of this letter are either stupid or can be accused of political grandstanding.  I sure hope it is not the former.

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