Lawsuit Says U.S. Budget Reconciliation Law Is Unconstitutional
Public Citizen on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court that argues the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation law (S 1932) is unconstitutional because the House did not approve the version of the legislation signed last month by President Bush, CQ Today reports (Dennis, CQ Today, 3/21). The law will reduce spending for Medicare, Medicaid and other programs by about $39 billion over five years.
According to the Washington Post, as the legislation moved from the Senate to the House last month, 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 legislation with the change.
After the "mistake was revealed, Republican leaders were loath to fight the battle again by having another vote, so White House officials simply deemed the Senate version to be the law," the Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 3/22).
A spokesperson for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that Hastert asked the Bush administration to delay the enactment of the legislation, but despite those concerns Bush decided to sign the legislation on the advice of White House attorneys.
The "budget consequences would be huge if the court were to rule against the administration," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 3/22).
Adina Rosenbaum, an attorney for Public Citizen, said, "Under the Constitution, the same version of a bill has to be passed by both houses of Congress. We filed our lawsuit because it's important for the government to abide by the law" (Yen, Associated Press, 3/21).
According to congressional leaders and the Bush administration, the Supreme Court in 1892 ruled in Field v. Clark that legislation is considered passed as long as the House speaker and the Senate leader certify passage (Washington Post, 3/22).
Hastert spokesperson Ron Bonkean said, "We believe that the law is constitutional and that this is yet another political attempt by the Democrats to stop us from cutting spending" (Reuters, 3/21).