The White House issued a statement Friday clarifying President Obama's "pocket veto" of legislation that consumer advocates worried would have made it more difficult for homeowners to fight fraudulent foreclosures.
Some have been skeptical that a pocket veto, which allows the president to kill legislation simply by not signing it when Congress is not in session, was available because the Senate has, in fact, been holding pro-forma sessions.
So instead of just not signing the bill, Obama is also sending it back to the House, making it a "protective return" veto.
"To leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed," said Obama in a statement, "in addition to withholding my signature, I am returning H.R. 3808 to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, along with this Memorandum of Disapproval."
H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act, passed the Senate with no public debate on Sept. 27 after Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) discharged it from the committee. The bill would require courts to recognize out-of-state notarizations and electronic notarizations. It had been passed by the House three times since 2007 but died quietly in the committee the first two times. It took everybody by surprise when it passed this time.
Many consumer advocates considered the timing suspicious, as bogus notarizations of fraudulent paperwork are at the heart of a growing scandal that has halted banks' foreclosures across the country. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner told HuffPost it almost seemed as if the bill was intended to serve as a "trap door" for banks to escape the crisis.
Leahy's office explained that they moved the bill because of lobbying by the National Notary Association, which was effective because of Leahy's apparent soft spot for Notaries Public. In August, Leahy spoke at an association event honoring Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, who happened to have been a Notary Public and who happened to have been from Vermont.
Michael Robinson, the director of the Notary Association, told HuffPost on Friday that he'd only been hoping for a swift review by the Judiciary Committee. "Quite honestly it took us by surprise at the end of September when we got word it had been introduced on the floor of the Senate and was headed to the White House."
The protective return pocket veto is not without its critics. Robert Spitzer, a political science professor who's written a book on the presidential veto, calls it "plainly extra-constitutional, utterly suspect, and completely unnecessary."