Obama uses autopen to sign the fiscal cliff bill

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the fiscal cliff bill that extends lower tax rates permanently on annual household income under USD 4,50,000 and postpones automatic spending cuts for two months.

"We received the bill late this afternoon, and it was immediately processed. A copy was delivered to the President for review. He then directed the bill be signed by autopen," a senior White House official said.

An autopen or signing machine is a device used for automatic signature.

Called the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012," the bill makes permanent the temporary rates on taxable income at or below USD 400,000 for individual filers and USD450,000 for married individuals filing jointly.

It also permanently indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount to the Consumer Price Index and extends emergency unemployment compensation benefits and Federal funding for unemployed workers for one year.

Among other things, it continues current law Medicare payment rates for physicians' services furnished through December 31, 2013 and provides a postponement of the Budget Control Act's sequester for two months.

Harry Truman is believed to have been the first US President to use the autopen as a way of responding to mail and signing checks.

Gerald Ford was the first President to openly acknowledge his use of the autopen.

On May 26, 2011, Obama became the first President to use an autopen to sign a bill into law.

While visiting France, Obama authorised the use of an autopen to create his signature which signed into law an extension of three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Republicans have opposed the use of autopen by Obama, questioning its constitutional validity. The White House has, however, defended the use of autopen.