- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

Rep. John Conyers Jr. and 10 other House Democrats filed a lawsuit yesterday against President Bush and his administration, contending that a budget-cutting law passed earlier this year is invalid because the House and Senate passed different versions.

“Once again, the administration is playing fast and loose with the Constitution,” said Mr. Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

“Anyone who has passed the sixth grade knows that before a bill can become a law, both houses of Congress must approve it.”

The White House wouldn’t comment on a pending legal matter.

At issue is a budget bill passed by Congress that reduced entitlement spending by $39 billion over five years. Because of a clerical error, the version that passed the House had a different time period for reimbursing medical providers for some medical equipment than the version that passed the Senate.

House Democrats and liberal activist groups who opposed the massive bill because they said it cut money from key health care and education programs, have argued it was invalid and tried unsuccessfully to force another vote on the legislation.

Republican leaders refused.

The bill passed by slim majorities in both the House and Senate, requiring the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Dick Cheney, who serves as Senate president.

Mr. Conyers’ suit, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, says the bill violates the Constitution, “which requires that bills pass both houses of Congress in identical form before being signed into law.” It asks that the law be declared invalid and a temporary restraining order be issued to prevent its continued implementation.

Republicans said that since the clerical error was corrected before the bill was sent to President Bush for his signature in February, the law stands and the current situation is politically driven.

Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, 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,” he said.

“This was clearly a clerical error, and only the Democrats would take it to this partisan extreme,” said a Senate Republican aide.

Democrats made sure to stress they believe the situation is part of Republican overall abuse of power — one of their main election-year themes.

“These actions not only constituted an abuse of power, but undermined the rule of law,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. Mrs. Pelosi didn’t sign onto the suit, but supports it.

Mr. Conyers has had his own problems lately, however. Former aides accused him of treating them like personal gofers and valets, using them to baby-sit his children and work on political campaigns, among other chores, the Detroit Free Press and the Hill newspaper reported in March.

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