WASHINGTON – Eleven House Democrats said Thursday they would sue the Bush administration, alleging the $39 billion deficit-reducing legislation signed by the president is unconstitutional because the House and Senate failed to approve identical versions.
The lawsuit, led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, was to be filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states by an Alabama attorney and a Florida-based student loan consulting firm.
"Once again the administration is playing fast and loose with the Constitution," Conyers said. "Anyone who has passed the sixth grade knows that before a bill can become law, both Houses of Congress must approve it."
A version of the bill that was narrowly approved by the House on Feb. 1 contained a clerical error. That error was fixed when the bill was transmitted to Bush, who signed it Feb. 8.
The White House and House and Senate GOP leaders 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.
Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called it "another attempt by the Democrats to stop us from trying to stop spending. They'll go to all ends of the earth to make sure that Americans have less money in their wallets."
Bush administration officials declined comment.
House Democrats have sought another vote, accusing Republican leaders of abusing the legislative process. The 11 Democrats pursuing the Michigan lawsuit contend they were denied their right to vote on legislation signed into law by the president.
The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the act is not law and provide a temporary restraining order preventing it from being implemented.
In addition to Conyers, the plaintiffs include Reps. John Dingell of Michigan, George Miller of California, Charles Rangel of New York, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, James Oberstar of Minnesota, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Pete Stark of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York.
The defendants include Bush, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Treasury Secretary John Snow.