Mar. 22, 2006
Group sues to block budget law that never passed House
By Jonathan Weisman
WASHINGTON - For anyone who took fifth-grade social studies, how legislation turns to law always seemed pretty simple: The House passes a bill, the Senate passes the same bill, and the president signs it.
But last month, Washington threw all that old-fashioned civics stuff into a tizzy when President Bush signed into law a bill that never passed the House. The bill -- in this case, a major budget-cutting measure that will affect millions of Americans -- became a law because it was ``certified'' by the leaders of the House and Senate.
After stewing for weeks, Public Citizen, a legislative watchdog group, sued Tuesday to block a law that aims to cut $40 billion over five years, charging that Bush and Republican leaders of Congress flagrantly violated the Constitution when the president signed it into law knowing that the version that cleared the House was $2 billion different from the Senate's version.
The issue is bizarre, with even constitutional scholars saying they could not think of any precedent for the journey the budget bill took to becoming a law. Republicans are evoking an obscure Supreme Court ruling from the 1890s to suggest that a bill does not actually have to pass both chambers of Congress to become law.
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