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Court Strikes Down Biden’s $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill As Unconstitutional


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has secured a victory against the Biden administration as a federal judge deemed the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed by the Democrats at the end of 2022 unconstitutional.

This ruling, delivered on Tuesday by Judge Wesley Hendrix of the Lubbock Division of the Northern District of Texas, opens the possibility of blocking Biden’s allocation of billions in taxpayer funds through subsequent litigation.

The omnibus bill, signed by Joe Biden in 2022 amid a family vacation in St. Croix and flown to the location to meet a December 30 deadline, earmarked 45 billion for Ukraine among other contentious allocations.

These included the passage of the Electoral Count Act, 2.6 BILLION to the DOJ, which included an increase of $212 million to aggressively fund January 6 persecutions/prosecutions, nearly 600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency, and 11 million targeting gun owners. Notably, the bill lacked funding for border security, a critical point of contention for many Americans and Republicans.

AG Paxton filed a lawsuit early in 2023 challenging the implementation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, bringing into question the constitutionality of the House’s quorum during its passage. The bill was passed with less than half of U.S. Con­gress phys­i­cal­ly present.

“Texas filed this case in mid-February 2023 challenging parts of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023–a $1.7 trillion appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in December 2022. Texas claims to be injured by two unrelated provisions of the Act: (1) a $20 million allocation to DHS’s “Alternatives to Detention” case management pilot program, which uses less expensive and more humane tools like GPS to monitor noncitizens who would otherwise be unnecessarily detained; and (2) the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” which newly requires covered employers–defined to include states as employers–to provide certain accommodations for pregnant employees. Although Texas seeks only to block these two provisions, its legal claim is that the Act is invalid because the House of Representatives allegedly did not have a quorum when it passed the Act (some members voted by proxy, which Texas argues was invalid),” Litigation Tracker wrote.

The suit highlighted that the House permitted proxy voting, a move that Paxton argued contradicts over two centuries of legislative practice under the Constitution’s Quorum Clause.

According to the press release at the time:

Attorney General Paxton is suing President Biden and members of his Administration over the unlawful signing and implementation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which was the latest omnibus spending bill.

The U.S. Constitution requires that a quorum of members of the U.S. House of Representatives be present for the lower chamber of Congress to conduct business. When the House passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 in December 2022, fewer than half of its members were present and more than half voted by proxy.

The U.S. Constitution empowers a quorum-less House only to “adjourn from day to day” or “compel the attendance of absent members.” Because “attendance” means physical presence, the U.S. Constitution does not allow voting by proxy to constitute a quorum. And because the omnibus spending bill wasn’t passed when a quorum of the House was present, it was never lawfully enacted, is unconstitutional, and the federal government should be enjoined from implementing it.

Judge Hendrix’s 120-page opinion meticulously dismantled the Justice Department’s defense of the spending bill, addressing the arguments one by one. In particular, he dismissed the notion that federal courts lack jurisdiction to scrutinize the legislative process, citing Supreme Court precedent that requires resolving any challenges to a quorum rule before applying the enrolled bill doctrine.

Hendrix wrote in his ruling:

“For over 235 years, Congress understood the Constitution’s Quorum Clause to require a majority of members of the House or Senate to be physically present to constitute the necessary quorum to pass legislation. This rule prevents a minority of members from passing legislation that affects the entire nation. But despite the Constitution’s text and centuries of consistent practice, the House in 2020 created a rule that permitted non-present members to be included in the quorum count and vote by proxy. Pursuant to that novel rule, the House passed a new law included within the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, and that particular provision affects Texas. Like many constitutional challenges, Texas asserts that this provision is unenforceable against it because Congress violated the Constitution in passing the law.


And because the House only had a quorum due to this unconstitutional provision of its proxy rule, the House violated the Quorum Clause when it passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Finally, the Court finds that Texas has carried its burden to show its entitlement to a permanent injunction of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. In light of these conclusions, the Court enjoins the defendants from enforcing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act against the State of Texas.”

You can read the full ruling here.

“Congress acted egregiously by passing the largest spending bill in U.S. history with fewer than half the members of the House bothering to do their jobs, show up, and vote in person,” said Attorney General Paxton.

“Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi abused proxy voting under the pretext of COVID-19 to pass this law, then Biden signed it, knowing they violated the Constitution. This was a stunning violation of the rule of law. I am relieved the Court upheld the Constitution.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation served as co-counsel. “This meticulous, 120-page opinion was written after a full trial on the merits,” said TPPF senior attorney Matt Miller. “The Court correctly concluded that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 violated the Quorum Clause of the U.S. Constitution because a majority of House members was not physically present when the $1.7 trillion spending bill was passed. Proxy voting is unconstitutional.”

Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21) issued the following statement in response to Judge James Hendrix’s ruling:

Article I of the Constitution has always made it clear that House and Senate members be physically present when conducting certain legislative business. For our constitutional system to work, it must be followed.

During passage of Pelosi’s $1.7 trillion lame duck FY 2023 omnibus in December 2022, I noted a physical quorum was not present. Indeed, a majority of Members – 226 – elected to vote by proxy on the bill’s final passage.

While this ruling’s reach will not be immediate, it is a critically important first step in forming judicial precedent against unconstitutional proxy voting. Thank you to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Public Policy Foundation for leading this effort in court. And thank you to the Mountain States Legal Foundation for their work on the amicus brief we led in the case. I also want to thank former Speaker Kevin McCarthy for working with me to challenge the constitutionality of proxy voting which the Supreme Court did not take up, but represented the right legal and philosophical position — a position underscored by yesterday’s judgment.

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