Fewer bill signing ceremonies politics?

March 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- Some Senate Republicans say politics is behind U.S. President Obama's cutback in the number of bills he ceremonially signs into law in public.

Republicans say they think the lack of public bill signings is part of a strategy a la President Harry Truman's tactic of running against a "do-nothing" Congress, and would be counter to Obama's claim of being constrained by Congress, The Hill reported Wednesday.

"I think that's his strategy," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said.

Coburn said Senate Democratic leaders were abetting Obama by focusing on partisan legislation that they know Republicans won't support.

The last signing ceremony was in early February for a measure sponsored by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who resigned to focus on recovering from being shot in the head at a constituent event last year. The law gives authorities more power to crack down on smugglers using low-flying, small aircraft to bring drugs into the United States from Mexico and Canada. Before that, his last public bill signing was in November.

Republicans said the most notable omission was when Obama signed the bill to extend the payroll tax cut Feb. 22 without fanfare. Republicans have argued it was an example of bipartisan achievement that should have been rewarded with a signing ceremony, The Hill said.

"The president is working to create an economy built to last, and if there are opportunities to sign legislation into law with members of Congress at his side, he will work to make them happen," White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith said. "The president, however, will not wait for a formal ceremony if it means that hardworking Americans see their taxes go up on their paychecks or their jobs put in jeopardy."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Obama may be missing out on an opportunity to demonstrate that government can work by not scheduling more signing ceremonies.

"I actually think it would help the president to show that he can work with Congress," said Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it wouldn't surprise him if Obama were trying to shy away from Congress, given economy.

"It's hard to do a victory lap about how good I am as a president when the economy and gas prices are the way they are," Graham said. "They are probably smart."

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