Texas is seeking an injunction against the $1.7 trillion omnibus package which the state says President Joe Biden unlawfully signed.
The lawsuit claims the U.S. House of Representatives did not have enough members physically present on the day of the vote on the Consolidated Appropriations Act to reach a quorum. Under an exception to the House’s standard rule granted by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of COVID-19, representatives who cast their votes by proxy were counted as present even though they were not in the chamber.
Attorney General Ken Paxton contends that the bill “did not lawfully pass in House of Representatives” and therefore “it was unlawful for Joe Biden to sign the bill” and for his administration to subsequently “implement it as law.”
“Americans deserve better than Joe Biden teaming up with Nancy Pelosi to deceitfully enact trillion-dollar legislation by violating rules clearly mandated in the Consitution,” said Paxton in a statement on April 5. “The consequences of their lawlessness and deception are going to be felt all across our state.”
“It is crucial that our legal system stop these acute harms — such as the millions of dollars facilitating illegal immigration — from being imposed on Texans,” he said.
The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The motion contends the nation’s Consitution specifically requires a majority of the members of Congress to be physically present to vote on legislation or conduct any other business.
“Even in times of national crisis and grave danger to the safety of the assembled Members, Congress has never before authorized proxy voting by its Members, much less purported to have passed a law when a quorum could be achieved only by pretending that absent members were present,” the lawsuit states.
Texas has asked the court to issue an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act is comprised of multiple appropriations bills that earmark funding for different areas of the government. The federal government is obligated to shut down if the fiscal year ends and budgetary appropriations have been passed. The 2022 omnibus bill addressed a wide range of concerns, including authorizing additional aid to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia, a ban on TikTok on government devices, $120.7 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and two bills – the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the PUMP Act – that create additional protections for pregnant or breastfeeding women in the workforce.
In total, 201 members of the House were at the Capitol on the day of the vote on Dec. 23, 2022 while 226 members voted by proxy. Biden signed the bill into law on Dec. 29.
“While the votes of those physically present totaled 88 yeas and 113 nays, the House clerk recorded that the bill passed by a margin of 225 yea, 201 nay, and 1 present, relying on a rule originally adopted in May of 2020 that allowed members to ‘designate … another Member as a proxy’ to ‘cast the vote’ of the designating Member if ‘a public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus is in effect,’” reports The Federalist.
Current Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy struck down the by-proxy voting allowance when he took over at the start of the 118th Congress.