DOJ Seeks Dismissal of Budget Lawsuit
The Department of Justice on Tuesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed in April by eleven House Democrats over allegations that the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation law is unconstitutional because the House and Senate did not approve the same version of the legislation, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 6/28).
The law reduces spending for Medicare, Medicaid and other programs by about $39 billion over five years. As the legislation moved from the Senate to the House in February, a Senate clerk mistakenly changed a 13-month restriction on leases for medical equipment funded by Medicare to 36 months, a $2 billion difference.
The House voted 216-214 to approve the bill with the change. The error was corrected when the legislation was signed by President Bush on Feb. 8.
The Bush administration and Republican lawmakers have said that the issue is settled because the error was technical and because House and Senate leaders certified the bill before they sent the legislation to Bush. The lawsuit, led by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), asks a judge to declare the law invalid and impose a temporary restraining order to prevent implementation of the law (California Healthline, 4/28).
In a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, DOJ attorney Brian Kennedy wrote that the House Democrats who filed the lawsuit lack legal standing because they do not lease medical equipment covered by the provision in question and are not in "any way personally affected or injured" by other provisions in the law. In addition, according to the motion, the difference between the House and Senate versions of the legislation would not have affected the votes of the House Democrats, who "were opposed to the bill in either event."
Conyers called the arguments "legally tenuous," adding, "In terms of standing, there is no more fundamental right in Congress than the right to vote, yet the administration would not only take this right away but prevent duly elected members (of Congress) from asserting that right after it is taken away" (CongressDaily 6/28).