Democrats Violated Constitution in Order to Spend $1.7 Trillion, Federal Court Rules

Craig Bannister | February 28, 2024
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House Democrats used an unconstitutional ploy to pass a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by Pres. Joe Biden in December of 2022, a federal court ruled on Tuesday.

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, federal Judge James Hendrix agreed that House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), did not have a constitutional quorum present needed to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 on Dec. 23, 2022.

In a scheme to circumvent the constitutional requirement that a majority of House members be physically present in the chamber, Democrats counted “proxies,” where representatives who were present voted multiple times – once for themselves, then again for absent members.

The “quorum clause” in Article I of the Constitution states that a majority of members must be present in order to achieve the quorum required to conduct official business in either chamber:

“Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.”

What’s more, of those House members who actually were physically present, a majority voted against the bill (113 nays to 88 yeas), The Federalist’s Senior Legal Correspondent Margot Cleveland explains:

“While the votes of those physically present totaled 88 yeas and 113 nays, the House clerk recorded that the bill passed by a margin of 225 yea, 201 nay, and 1 present, relying on a rule originally adopted in May of 2020 that allowed members to ‘designate[] another Member as a proxy’ to ‘cast the vote’ of the designating Member if ‘a public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus is in effect[.]’”

Because the House proxy rule violated the quorum clause of the Constitution, the Consolidated Appropriations Act never became law, Judge Hendrix ruled. The Biden Administration is expected to appeal.

“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,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement reacting to the ruling:

“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.”

While nothing can be done about the $1.7 trillion that has already been spent, Judge Hendrix’s ruling does negate, and prevent the Biden Administration from enforcing, a provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 against the State of Texas that was proved to impose unjust cost burdens on the State.

The Court’s ruling grants a permanent injunction of the Biden Administration’s enforcement of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which is a piece of permanent legislation included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Since the PWFA imposes new permanent burdens on Texas that are not contained in any piece of legitimately-passed state or federal law, Texas cannot be compelled to suffer them, Judge Hendrix ruled.

Despite the limited initial impact of the ruling, it does open the door for other states and employers to challenge additional permanent provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, based on the quorum deficiency, if they can prove both standing and harm.

To read the decision, click here.