March 21, 2006

Recently Passed Law Cutting Medicare, Student Loan Spending Is Invalid, Public Citizen Tells Federal Court

Version of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 Passed by Senate and Signed by President Was Different From House Version

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A law President Bush signed on Feb. 8 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, Public Citizen told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed today. 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.

Last fall, 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 for its concurrence. 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.

“Today’s lawsuit simply requests the court to uphold the Constitution,” said Adina Rosenbaum, a Public Citizen attorney. “The entire law is invalid because the law the House passed is different from the law the Senate passed and the president signed.”

“The Congress and the president have to be brought to account for their rogue actions in moving to enact this very controversial legislation without complying with the Constitution,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “This time, they will have to answer for their actions.”

To view the lawsuit, click here.

For more information about the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, click here.

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