Published January 03, 2013
HONOLULU – President Obama late Wednesday signed the fiscal crisis bill passed by Congress using an autopen while on vacation with his family in Hawaii.
The bill, which averts a looming fiscal cliff that had threatened to plunge the nation back into recession, boosts taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while preserving tax cuts for most American households.
It also extends expiring jobless benefits, prevents cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and delays for two months billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.
The GOP-run House approved the measure by a 257-167 vote late Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after the Democratic-led Senate passed it 89-8.
Obama appeared in the White House briefing room minutes after the House passed the bill to praise the deal in an eight-minute speech.
"And I hope that everybody now gets at least a day off, I guess, or a few days off, so that people can refresh themselves, because we're going to have a lot of work to do in 2013," he said.
The president also signed a $633 billion defense bill for next year that tightens penalties on Iran and bolsters security at diplomatic missions worldwide after the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Obama had threatened to veto the measure because of a number of concerns, including limits on his authority to transfer terrorist suspects from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for one year.
However, Obama said that although he continued to oppose certain sections of the bill, "the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore."
The bill includes cuts in defense spending that the president and congressional Republicans agreed to in August 2011, along with the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan.
The autopen is a mechanical device that copies the president's signature. According to the White House Executive Clerk's Office, the bill was sent to Obama in PDF form Wednesday afternoon, and was signed via autopen once Obama approved it.
Obama is the first president to sign bills electronically, and has signed two previous pieces of legislation using the technology.
The president arrived in Honolulu before 5 a.m. local time Wednesday and immediately rejoined his family in their rented beachside vacation home in Kailua, a picturesque Honolulu suburb on the east side of Oahu. Kailua Beach is a popular place for wind sports and paddle surfing.
Obama and his family had spent several days, including Christmas Day, at the secluded compound before he returned to Washington on Dec. 26 for the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Fox News' Joy Lin, Bret Baier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.