A: As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, this is the first time that we know of that an autopen has signed a bill into law.
ANDREA SEABROOK: The first autopen was patented in 1803 by a man named John Isaac Hawkins. The polygraph, as it was called, was immediately pounced on by America's original early adopter of cutting edge technology, Thomas Jefferson.
SUSAN STEIN: He wrote with one pen and it was hooked to another pen, and the other one made a copy on the second piece of paper.
SEABROOK: Susan Stein is the senior curator of Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia plantation. The mansion is full of high-tech machines: automatic doors, a dumbwaiter in the dining room to pluck bottles of wine from the cellar, and then there's the double clock - one facing the hall...
STEIN: And outside, there is another face that shows the hours, and that was hooked to a Chinese gong on the roof.
SEABROOK: Modern autopens can write by themselves. And this morning was not the first time a president has considered using one to sign a bill, says former Deputy Attorney General Howard Nielson.
HOWARD NIELSON: This is an issue that in the past had come up a couple of times. It had always come up in kind of urgent circumstances.
SEABROOK: It's 29 pages long, but it essentially says, what matters is the president's decision to approve a bill, not the mechanics of how it's signed. After all, says Nielson, the Constitution also says if the president is going to veto a bill, quote, "he shall return it."
NEILSEN: You know, it's never been understood that he actually has to physically walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and hand it to Congress himself.
JAY WEXLER: Excuse me. Excuse me. Hi, I have this bill. I must return.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
WEXLER: Does anybody know where Congress is?
SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.
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