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Pens play a role in signing of healthcare legislation

President Obama uses 22 of them, carrying on a long-standing White House tradition for approving important legislation.

March 24, 2010|By Nicole Santa Cruz

So what's with all the pens?

Why did President Obama use 22 pens to sign the healthcare legislation Tuesday?

He was continuing a long-standing White House tradition for approving important legislation.

The pens are "a way of giving a very meaningful memento to the people who played a significant role in passing the legislation," said Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy and political science at UCLA.

Obama kept a pen for himself after signing the bill, and 19 pens were given out as mementos. Two will go to his presidential archives.

Among those gathered around Obama as he signed were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Vice President Joe Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and John D. Dingell (D-Mich.). All received pens.

President Lyndon B. Johnson used more than 70 pens to sign the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

In addition to other lawmakers, recipients of pens included Sister Carol Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Assn., and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had long fought for healthcare reform.

nicole.santacruz@

latimes.com

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