May 29, 2007
Appellate Court Ruling in Deficit Reduction Act Case Fails to Uphold Basic Constitutional Principle
Statement of Allison Zieve, Attorney, Public Citizen
We are disappointed with today’s appellate court decision affirming the dismissal of Public Citizen’s challenge to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). We are also disappointed that, in this case, the courts have not been willing to stand up for a basic principle of our Constitution: the requirement that both chambers of Congress pass identical versions of a bill before that bill can be signed into law by the president.
With respect to the DRA, the president signed a bill that was passed by the Senate but not the House of Representatives. In March 2006, Public Citizen filed a lawsuit in federal district court to challenge the DRA on the ground that the DRA was not a valid law because both houses of Congress had not passed the version of the bill signed by President Bush.
Last August, the district court, relying on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1892 called Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, dismissed the lawsuit. The court held that it could not look behind the bill presented by Congress to the president and, therefore, Public Citizen could not prove a bicameralism violation.
In an opinion issued today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. Agreeing with the district court, the appellate court held that Marshall Field precluded our challenge.
We have not yet decided whether we will pursue the case further.