Monday, November 6, 2006

Judge Dismisses Budget Bill Lawsuit

Detroit Judge Dismisses House Democrats' Lawsuit Over $39 Billion Budget Bill reports:

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by U.S. House Democrats trying to stop a $39 billion budget bill because the House and Senate did not approve identical versions.

House Democrats accused GOP leaders of abusing the legislative process and contend they were denied their right to vote on legislation signed into law by President Bush in February. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, sued in April along with 10 other House members to prevent the law from being implemented.

The Senate version of the bill said Medicare can pay to rent some types of medical equipment for 13 months. A clerk erroneously wrote down 36 months before the bill was sent back to the House for a final vote, and the language was approved by the House on Feb. 1.

When the bill was sent to Bush for his signature, the number was back to 13 months. The lawsuit said the oversight amounted to an additional $2 billion in spending, and the plaintiffs claimed that because they never had the chance to vote on the version signed into law, the law was invalid.

The Department of Justice had sought the lawsuit's dismissal, claiming the 11 House members lacked standing because they are not renters of medical equipment and were not in "any way personally affected or injured."

Messages seeking comment were left Monday night with Conyers' office and the Justice Department.

The White House and Republican leaders in Congress have said the matter is settled because the mistake was technical and top House and Senate leaders certified the bill before transmitting it to the White House.