Deficit Reduction Act Update: Democrats Demand Hearing, Zeigler Fights On

March 16, 2006

Continuing efforts to achieve a legislative solution to the controversy surrounding enactment of the Deficit Reduction Ace of 2005 (DRA), three Democrats on the House Administration Committee have sent a letter to Committee Vernon Ehlers requesting an oversight hearing on the constitutional and procedural problems with the measure. The letter questions the legitimacy of the bill because on February 8, the President signed a version that was passed by the Senate but was different from one passed by the House. (See past newsletters for details.)

“This incident strikes at the very core of Congress’ law-making powers and the legitimacy of our constitutional system,” according to the March 8 letter.

Democrats in the House of Representatives say the Act is invalid and are calling for a re-vote because, according to the U.S. Constitution, a law must be approved in identical form by both houses of Congress. Republicans are resisting, not wishing to open a fresh debate on the budget measure’s cutbacks on programs for the poor and middle class.

A spokesman for House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), reported that the Republican majority is not likely to heed the request for a hearing, “but we want to at least put them on the record and then we may ratchet it up after that – get GAO [the Government Accountability Office] or somebody else to do it as well. There are different strategies.” It was also insinuated that there are other lawsuits being filed in addition to the one lodged by Alabama elder law attorney Jim Zeigler, but no specifics were given.

Meanwhile, Zeigler has announced that he is looking for “a few good plaintiffs” to join him in his suit. Zeigler says the addition of persons affected by specific changes in DRA would help his case in two ways: eliminating the possibility that his own legal standing may be challenged and opening the possibility of injunctive relief.

“An ideal plaintiff would be someone soon to be personally affected by the Feb. 8 changes, “ Zeigler said. “We could then apply for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to enjoin the effective date of the Act pending the outcome of the case.”

“We have just obtained service of process on the local U.S. Attorney and are still awaiting return of service from the U.S. Attorney General,” Zeigler added. “We expect them to take the maximum time to file responsive pleadings.”

Zeigler is not raising funds for the suit on his website The Alabama attorney, who was once a member of President Bush’s legal team, now estimates the cost will be $750,000; his earlier estimate of $300,000 did not reflect bond and appeals.

The controversy over the DRA’s constitutionality has caught the notice of Wall Street. The publication published an article on the dispute’s possible impact on home health care providers.