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Court hands Texas a win in case challenging $1.7 trillion federal funding bill

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(The Center Square) – A U.S. District Court handed Texas its first win in a lawsuit challenging the validity of an omnibus spending package Congress passed in late 2022 that it argued would create an undue burden on the state.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Hendrix of the Northern District of Texas Lubbock Division issued a two-page final judgement against three federal agencies and their respective leaders and officials on Tuesday in Texas v. Garland.

He also issued a 120-page memorandum opinion and order chastising Congress for illegally passing a bill without having a quorum, which the U.S. Constitution requires it to do. U.S. House members must be physically present to vote and comply with the U.S. Constitution’s voting clause, he ruled.

The Biden administration, as it has done in most lawsuits filed by states, argued the court “has no power to address the issue” and Texas does not have legal standing to sue, among other arguments.

Hendrix disagreed, arguing the court interprets and enforces the Constitution – “rather than second-guessing a vote count.”

“By including members who were indisputably absent in the quorum count, the Act at issue passed in violation of the Constitution’s Quorum Clause,” he ruled.

At issue is Congress passing a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill in December 2022 when less than half of U.S. House members were present. Those who were absent voted by proxy, with many citing “COVID” as the reason for their absence.

Doing so was unconstitutional, Texas and the Texas Public Policy Foundation argued, and sued. The Quorum clause requires a majority of House members to be physically present in order for the U.S. House of Representatives to even conduct business. Despite this, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conducted House business, the legislation passed, and the president signed it into law.

TPPF attorneys argued the merits of the case at a trial held in January. The judge ruled primarily in favor of Texas on Tuesday.

When Texas sued, Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution authorize the House to pass trillion-dollar bills when more than half the members are in their homes, vacationing, or are anywhere physically other than the United States Capitol Building. Our Founders would be turning over in their graves if they could see how former Speaker Nancy Pelosi used proxy voting to upend our constitutional system. That is especially true regarding the 1.7 trillion-dollar bill that should have never been ‘passed.’ Joe Biden, who’s been in Washington for half a century, should have known he couldn’t legally sign it either. But he never seems to let the law get in the way of him doing whatever he wants to do.”

Paxton praised the rulng, saying he “upheld the Constitution.”

Two provisions of the act directly affect Texas, the lawsuit argues. One imposed new legal obligations on employers using the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, purporting “to subject [Texas] to the costs, hassles, and attendant risks of administrative proceedings, investigations, and lawsuits, by both private individuals and the federal government,” for several reasons, the lawsuit argues.

At issue is the federal government attempting to “abrogate Texas’s sovereign protection from being sued without its consent is a direct stripping of a sovereign power it is entitled to enjoy as one of the United States,” the lawsuit states.

Another provision of the law created a new taxpayer-funded pilot program through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Alternatives to Detention Case Management Pilot Program. It authorized “the release of illegal aliens into the interior of the country” by having nonprofit organizations provide “housing assistance, access to counsel, childcare, transportation, healthcare, and schooling” among other services to illegal foreign nationals.

This causes “Texas and its local governments to spend additional monies on services to illegal aliens they would not otherwise spend,” the lawsuit argues.

The judge enjoined the U.S. attorney general, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, their heads and respective officials and employees, from enforcing the first provision of the bill but not the second. He argued Texas only made its case that the first provision would “suffer irreparable injury absent an injunction.”

He also said, “the Act itself presents a unique case given its contents: extensive funding for the federal government’s operations and several pieces of permanent legislation. But there is no too-big-to-be-unconstitutional exception for congressional action. It is well established that Congress cannot simply ignore the Constitution’s limits “in pursuit of desirable ends.”

The Biden administration has seven days to appeal his ruling, according to the order.

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