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NATL. TREASURY EMPLES. UNION v. UNITED STATES

July 3, 1996

NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION, ROBERT M. TOBIAS, FRANK HEFFLER, and GAIL MCKINNEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 Before the Court in the above-captioned case is the defendant's Motion to Dismiss the plaintiffs' challenge to the Line Item Veto Act. As grounds therefor, the defendant argues that the matter is currently nonjusticiable and that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue. Upon careful consideration of the parties' pleadings, the entire record herein, the arguments of counsel at today's hearing, and the applicable law, the Court shall grant the defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing.

 BACKGROUND

 On April 9, 1996, the President approved the Line Item Veto Act, as enacted by Congress. Pub. L. No. 104-130, 110 Stat. 1200 (1996) (to be codified at 2 U.S.C. §§ 681 note, 691, et seq.) The purpose of the Act is "to give the President line item veto authority with respect to appropriations, new direct spending, and limited tax benefits." Id., Preamble.

 The Act and the amendments it makes take effect only after the earlier of the enactment into law, pursuant to Article I, section 7, of the Constitution, of an Act to provide for a seven-year plan for deficit reduction and to achieve a balanced budget or January 1, 1997. 2 U.S.C. 691 note. *fn1" When either of the events occurs, the President will then be authorized, with respect to any bill or joint resolution signed into law pursuant to Article I, section 7, to "cancel in whole" any dollar amount of "discretionary budget authority," any item of "new direct spending" or any "limited tax benefit," as those terms are defined in the Act, if the President determines that the "cancellation" will "reduce the Federal budget deficit," "not impair any essential Government function," and "not harm the national interest . . ." 2 U.S.C. § 691(a). *fn2"

 The President must notify Congress of a cancellation by transmitting a "special message" within five calendar days after the enactment of the law to which the cancellation applies. 2 U.S.C. § 691(a)(3)(B). The Act specifies the contents of the special message, and requires that it shall be printed in the first issue of the Federal Register published after the message is transmitted to Congress. 2 U.S.C. § 691a(b)(1), (c)(2). The cancellation takes effect upon Congress' receipt of the special message and, in the case of discretionary budget authority, results in the simultaneous reduction of the dollar amount of the relevant appropriation. 2 U.S.C. § 691b. The cancellation operates to rescind any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority or to prevent items of new direct spending or limited tax benefits from having legal force or effect. 2 U.S.C. § 691e(4). Both the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office must make designated revisions in budget estimates and reports if a cancellation becomes effective. 2 U.S.C. § 691c.

 Under the Act, each special message transmitted by the President is referred to the appropriate congressional committees. 2 U.S.C. § 691d(a). During a congressional review period of 30 days following Congress' receipt of the special message, Members of Congress may introduce, and Congress may consider, a "disapproval bill" under a schedule and procedures spelled out in the Act. 2 U.S.C. § 691d(b)-(f). A disapproval bill is a bill or joint resolution which disapproves of one or more cancellations. 2 U.S.C. § 691e(6). If a disapproval bill is enacted into law, then all cancellation disapproved in that law are null and void. 2 U.S.C. § 691b(a). The Act does not confer authority on the President to cancel any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority, item of new direct spending or limited tax benefit contained in an enacted disapproval bill. 2 U.S.C. § 691(c). A "disapproval bill" must be passed by a majority of both Houses and be signed by the President in order to nullify the President's cancellation. See 2 U.S.C. § 691b(a). The cancellation may, however, be overridden by a two-thirds Congressional majority. See Id.

 The Act provides that any Member of Congress, and any individual "adversely affected" by the Act, may bring an action in this Court for declaratory and injunctive relief "on the ground that any provision of this part violates the Constitution." 2 U.S.C. § 692(a)(1). This provision does not "infringe upon the right of the House of Representatives to intervene" in such an action "without the necessity of adopting a resolution to authorize such intervention." 2 U.S.C. § 692(a)(3). Any order of this Court issued pursuant to an action brought under the Act "shall be reviewable by appeal directly to the Supreme Court of the United States." 2 U.S.C. § 692(b). Moreover, it is the duty of this Court, and the Supreme Court, to advance on the docket and expedite the disposition of an action brought thereunder. 2 U.S.C. § 692(c).

 The plaintiffs, a labor organization representing approximately 140,000 federal employees in various departments within the Executive Branch, its president, and two of its members, filed the instant suit on the day the Act was approved by the President. Their challenge is threefold. First, they argue that the Act violates the Presentment Clause, Article I, section 7, by establishing "a procedure at odds with the carefully structured veto requirements" of that Clause. Second, they argue that the Act "represents an abdication of legislative control over the fisc and unconstitutionally shifts lawmaking power to the executive branch, thereby upsetting the Constitution's carefully crafted scheme of checks and balances." And third, they argue that the Act violates Article I, section 5 (which grants each House of Congress the right to determine its own procedural rules) "by prescribing rules of procedure that are binding on both Houses."

 DISCUSSION

 The Court starts from the proposition that "no principle is more fundamental to the judiciary's proper role in our system of government than the constitutional limitation of federal-court jurisdiction to actual cases and controversies." Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 37, 48 L. Ed. 2d 450, 96 S. Ct. 1917 (1976). "The 'case or controversy' requirement defines with respect to the Judicial Branch the idea of separation of powers on which the Federal Government is founded." Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556, 104 S. Ct. 3315 (1984). The doctrine of standing and the related doctrines of mootness, ripeness, and political question "that have grown up to elaborate [the case or controversy requirement] are founded in concern about the proper--and properly limited--role of the courts in a democratic society." Id. (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975)). These are threshold inquiries that "must be answered by reference to the . . . Article III notion that federal courts may exercise power only in the last resort and as a necessity." 104 S. Ct. at 3325 (quoting Chicago & Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U.S. 339, 345, 36 L. Ed. 176, 12 S. Ct. 400 (1892)).

 Ordinarily, standing analysis is both constitutional and prudential in nature; however, in the instant case, the Court need not consider prudential standing limitations because Congress intended that standing under the Act be coextensive with Article III limitations. 2 U.S.C. § 692(a). Accord Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 71 L. Ed. 2d 214, 102 S. Ct. 1114 (1982); Spann v. Colonial Village, Inc., 283 U.S. App. D.C. 216, 899 F.2d 24 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 980, 112 L. Ed. 2d 521, 111 S. Ct. 508, 111 S. Ct. 509 (1990). At bottom, "the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing" contains three elements:

 
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact--an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of--the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court. ...

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