The White House says flying a bill that will authorize about $40 billion in aid to Ukraine will ensure there won’t be any funding gaps when it comes to its military and humanitarian support for their fight against a Russian invasion.
But while flying a bill to a President’s location is not uncommon, it also isn’t entirely necessary.
The Justice Department issued an opinion in 2005, when George W. Bush was President, that stated: “The President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill he approves and decides to sign in order for the bill to become law. Rather, the President may sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 by directing a subordinate to affix the President’s signature to such a bill, for example by autopen.”
Barack Obama later became the first US President to sign legislation using autopen – a device used for automatic signatures – when he was abroad in 2011. Obama authorized the use of the autopen to sign legislation extending the Patriot Act when he was in Europe.
Biden had already departed for his first trip to Asia as President by the time the Senate passed the $40 billion aid package on Thursday. The bill was presented to the White House by the House Enrolling Clerk later that day.
A National Security Council spokesman told CNN the bill is going with someone who was already traveling to the region for official duties. CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on flying the bill over to South Korea.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling with the President on Thursday, “The President does intend to sign the bill while he’s on the road so that he can sign it expeditiously. The modalities of that are being worked right now so that he can get it and sign it. There won’t be a gap for that very reason.”
He continued, “We, today, authorized the 10th Presidential Drawdown – the remaining $100 million – on May 19, just as we said we were going to do. That money will be converted into capabilities. Those capabilities will flow in the coming days. And then the next Presidential Drawdown will be teed up shortly following his signature. So, we will have the kind of continuity of support that we asked for, and for that we are grateful to the bipartisan backing that we’ve gotten from the Congress, who stepped up and did this in a timely fashion.”
Presidential drawdown authority funding allows the administration to send military equipment and weapons from US stocks. The bill includes an increase in presidential drawdown authority funding from the $5 billion the Biden administration originally requested to $11 billion.
The legislation approved by Congress provides money for military and humanitarian aid, including funding to assist Ukrainian military and national security forces, help replenish stores of US equipment sent to Ukraine, and provide public health and medical support for Ukrainian refugees.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump had a massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill flown to Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, for his signature.