WASHINGTON – House Democrats want President Bush to say whether he knew of what they call a "fundamental constitutional problem" with the $39 billion deficit reduction package he signed last month.
A letter to Bush, signed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman of California and released Thursday, is the latest challenge to a bill that was passed in slightly different forms by the House and Senate before it was sent to Bush.
"A bill is not law unless the same version is passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the president," top Democrats wrote to Bush. He signed it on Feb. 8.
The Senate version of the bill said Medicare can pay to rent some types of medical equipment for 13 months, as intended by congressional negotiators. A clerk erroneously wrote down 36 months before the bill was sent back to the House for a final vote, and that's what the House approved Feb. 1.
By the time the bill was shipped to Bush, the number was back to 13 months as passed by the Senate.
Recognizing the problem, the Senate passed a resolution hours after Bush signed the bill confirming that the measure transmitted to the president was "deemed the true enrollment reflecting the intention of the Congress." The White House considers the matter settled.
Others do not. A liberal watchdog group, Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal court to throw the budget bill out. A Republican activist also has sued in federal court in Alabama.