Photo by Rick McMillin/Deposit Photos

The $1.7 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, passed in 2022 and signed into law by President Biden that December, has been ruled unconstitutional after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit challenging the bill due to less than half of the chamber’s members physically being in the chamber to vote.

“Like many constitutional challenges, Texas asserts that this provision is unenforceable against it because Congress violated the Constitution in passing the law. In response, the defendants claim, among other things, that this Court has no power to address the issue because it cannot look to extrinsic evidence to question whether a bill became law,” the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division wrote. “But because the Court is interpreting and enforcing the Constitution—rather than second-guessing a vote count—the Court disagrees. The Court concludes that, by including members who were indisputably absent in the quorum count, the Act at issue passed in violation of the Constitution’s Quorum Clause.”

The members that were not in the chamber for the vote voted by proxy, which is unconstitutional according to The Texas Public Policy Foundation Senior Attorney Matt Miller.

“The Court correctly concluded that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 violated the Quorum Clause of the U.S. Constitution because a majority of House members was not physically present when the $1.7 trillion spending bill was passed. Proxy voting is unconstitutional,” Miller said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the decision, claiming that “Congress acted egregiously by passing the largest spending bill in U.S. history with fewer than half the members of the House bothering to do their jobs, show up, and vote in person.”

“Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi abused proxy voting under the pretext of COVID-19 to pass this law, then Biden signed it, knowing they violated the Constitution. This was a stunning violation of the rule of law. I am relieved the Court upheld the Constitution,” Paxton’s press release reads.

“Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution authorize the House to pass trillion-dollar bills when more than half the members are in their homes, vacationing, or are anywhere physically other than the United States Capitol Building,” Paxton said in February 2023 when announcing the lawsuit.

“Our Founders would be turning over in their graves if they could see how former Speaker Nancy Pelosi used proxy voting to upend our constitutional system. That is especially true regarding the 1.7 trillion-dollar bill that should have never been ‘passed.’ Joe Biden, who’s been in Washington for half a century, should have known he couldn’t legally sign it either. But he never seems to let the law get in the way of him doing whatever he wants to do,” Paxton added.

Texas only sought to block two provisions of the bill, and not block spending from the entire bill.

Hendrix ruled in favor of Texas’ challenge regarding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a law that would require employers to provide protections to pregnant workers and a third year of spending for DHS’s Alternatives to Detention Case Management Pilot Program. The judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can not enfore that provision in cases that involve Texas state government employees, but the ruling does not apply to other workers in Texas.

Hendrix found that the state lacked standing to challenge the $20 million appropriated by the bill to fund DHS’s Alternatives to Detention Case Management Pilot Program, a program that “provides voluntary case management and other services to noncitizens in immigration removal proceedings.”

“Between the additional regulatory costs of complying with the PWFA and the harm of having its sovereign immunity waived, Texas has shown an irreparable injury caused by the PWFA,” the ruling reads.

“There is little valuable interest in enforcing statutes promulgated in violation of the Constitution,” the ruling states.

“A harmed party cannot be prohibited from obtaining relief from unconstitutional legislation simply because Congress included enough important provisions in the legislation,” the ruling reads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *