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House Members File Suit to Block 'Law' Changing Medicaid Rules
- April 28th, 2006
Congressman John Conyers, Jr., the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and ten other ranking members of Congress have filed a lawsuit to stop the federal government from implementing the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA).
The legislation was signed by President Bush on February 8 but it has since been revealed that the president, apparently knowingly, signed a version of the bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate but not the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Once again the Administration is playing fast and loose with the Constitution," said Conyers. "Anyone who has passed the sixth grade knows that before a bill can become a law, both Houses of Congress must approve it. That the Bush Administration is now saying otherwise underscores the Constitutional crisis we are facing in this country.
The House members' suit, filed in federal court in Detroit, is at least the third lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the DRA. Lawsuits have also been filed by ElderLawAnswers member attorney Jim Zeigler and by the consumer group Public Citizen. A Florida-based student loan consulting company has reportedly also filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the DRA.
Among numerous cuts in social programs, the DRA would place severe new restrictions on the ability of the elderly to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care. The measure barely passed both houses of Congress. But the Constitution requires that before a bill can be enacted into law by the president, it must pass both the House and Senate in identical form. Due to a clerk's substantive change as the legislation passed between houses, the president signed legislation that was passed by the Senate but not the House. The House-passed version of the bill provided for 36 months of durable medical equipment funding under Medicare, whereas the Senate bill provided for only 13 months -- a roughly $2 billion difference. (For details, click here.)
According to public accounts, the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate, as well as the president, were aware the legislation before the president had not passed the House of Representatives before the presidential signing ceremony.
"After consulting with some of the foremost constitutional experts in the nation," said Conyers, "I determined that one group of people are injured by the entire bill: Members of the House. We were deprived of our right to vote on a bill that is now being treated as the law of the land."
"Republican leaders were in such a rush to ram this bill through Congress and get the President to sign it that they violated the Constitution in the process," said Rep. George Miller, Ranking Member of the Education and Workforce Committee. "And they were in a rush because this was a very, very bad bill. They wanted to spend as little time as possible having to explain their backwards priorities -- like cutting $12 billion from financial aid programs for college students -- to their constituents."
In a statement on the lawsuit, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the suit is necessary to uphold the Constitution.
In addition to Rep. Conyers, the other plaintiffs include the Ranking Members on relevant committees and subcommittees affected by the DRA: Rep. John Dingell, Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Charles B. Rangel, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee; Rep. George Miller, Ranking Member on the Education and Workforce Committee; Rep. James L. Oberstar, Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Barney Frank, Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee; Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Ranking Member on the Agriculture Committee; Rep. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, Ranking Member on the Rules Committee; Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member on the Commerce Health Subcommittee.
The House members are represented by the Michigan law firm of Dykema Gossett PLLC and Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert at Duke Law School.
For a copy of the complaint filed by Rep. Conyers, et al, click here.
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Ron M. Landsman, P.A.
Ron M. Landsman has been practicing elder law since 1983, before it was known as elder law, originally with Landsman and Laster, Washington, D.C., then Landsman, Eakes and Laster, also in Arlington, VA, and since 1990 in his own practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has been among the most active members of the...
Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
Jean Galloway Ball is certified in Elder Law by the National Elder Law Foundation. She is a 1977 honors graduate of the National Law Center, George Washington University, and she did her undergraduate work at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. She is admitted to practice in Vir...
Felinton Elder Law & Estate Planning Centers
Mindy Felinton concentrates in the areas of Medicaid planning, Veterans' Benefits, asset protection, nursing home planning, elder law, wills, estate planning, trusts, living wills, powers of attorney, probate administration and trust administration and began her legal career 30 years ago as an Assistant State Attorney...