Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Constitution, schmonstitution

The most recent budget which passed the House and the Senate and was signed into law by George W. Bush has a little constitutional problem. The problem is that S. 1932 differed from the House version of the bill. A small difference in text (the Senate version had a 13-month limitation on rental of medical equipment for Medicare patients; this was erroneously changed to 36 months by a Senate clerk before sending the bill to the House) led to a huge difference in effect ($2 billion more for the House version). Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert modified the House version of the bill to be identical to the Senate version without putting it to another vote, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist concurred that this was sufficient. Unfortunately, this means that the text of the bill Bush signed was never passed by the House of Representatives, as required by the Constitution.

Considering that Congress often doesn't read what they're voting on anyway, I'm not sure this is such a big deal compared to, say, the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act which were passed without being read--but it's a bad precedent nonetheless if allowed to stand.

Public Citizen has filed a lawsuit over the issue.

No comments: