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Public Citizen v. Clerk, United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Close Date: 12/10/2007
Topic(s): Protecting Constitutional Rights and Requirements
Status: open
Date Of Involvement: 03/21/2006
Docket: 07-141

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In this case filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, we argue that a law President Bush signed on Feb. 8, 2006 is invalid because he signed a version of the bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate but not the U.S. House of Representatives. The law, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, decreases student loan and Medicare spending, extends welfare cuts, and cuts federal funding of state child-support enforcement programs.

In fall 2005, the House and Senate passed different versions of the Deficit Reduction Act. To reconcile the differences between the two versions, the legislation was sent to a House-Senate conference committee. The bill was modified and the final conference version was filed on Dec. 19. On the same day, the House passed the conference report. The Senate, however, rejected the conference report and on Dec. 21 passed an amended version of the bill. The Senate clerk sent it back to the House to vote on. But before transmitting it, the Senate clerk made a substantive change to the bill by altering the duration of Medicare payments for certain durable medical equipment such as hospital beds and wheelchairs from 13 months, as passed by the Senate, to 36 months.

The House passed the version with the clerk's error. Bush then signed the legislation that was passed by the Senate — which did not contain the clerk's error — and not the version passed by the House, which did.

The Bicameral Clause of the United States Constitution states that "every bill [must] have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate" before it becomes a law. Because the president signed a bill that was passed only by the Senate, the act is unconstitutional.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court decision on May 29, 2007. We then filed a petition for certiorari in the US Supreme Court, which was denied