Democrats question Bush on signing of budget bill with clerical error

Democrats question Bush on signing of budget bill with clerical error

[JURIST] US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi [official website] and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) [official website] said Thursday that they have sent a letter [text] to President Bush asking if he knew when he signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 [PDF text] that it suffered from a "fundamental constitutional problem." Due to a clerical error, identical versions of the legislation were not passed by both the US House and Senate and the text sent to Bush for his signature only matched what was passed in the Senate. After Bush signed the legislation [press release; fact sheet] last month, the Senate passed a resolution confirming that the version signed by the President was "deemed the true enrollment reflecting the intention of the Congress."

In their letter, Pelosi and Waxman wrote:

It is a basic constitutional principle – which every child learns in grade school – that a bill is not a law unless the same version is passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the President. Yet there is now growing evidence that your actions on February 8 breached this fundamental tenet of our democracy with the full knowledge of high-ranking congressional and White House officials.

More than 100 years ago, the Supreme Court addressed whether a bill could become law if the version signed by the President differed from the version passed by the House and Senate. In the case of Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1892), the Court held that the President could rely on the attestation of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate that the legislation before the President was the same as the legislation that passed the Congress. But the Court also recognized that the outcome would be different if there were a "deliberate conspiracy" to ignore the Presentment Clause of the Constitution.

We all share a common responsibility to uphold the Constitution, a responsibility that may well have been breached in the manner by which the signing of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 occurred. Given the seriousness of the breach that has been reported, we request that you provide the Congress, as well as the press and the public, with a full and candid explanation of the activities of February 8 that turned the "mock signing ceremony" that the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader expected into a real one.

Earlier this week, a federal lawsuit [PDF complaint] was filed challenging the constitutionality [JURIST report] of the Deficit Reduction Act. AP has more.