Judge Dismisses House Members' Suit Challenging Medicaid Law

A U.S. district court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., and 10 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives challenging the constitutionality of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA).

In their suit, the House members had argued the law was unconstitutional because the version passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush was different from the version passed by the House. In dismissing the suit, Judge Nancy G. Edmonds of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan first found the House members lacked standing to bring the suit because even if the court were to strike down the DRA as unconstitutional, there would be no guarantee that the remedy would stick, since Congress could pass an identical version of the statute that met the procedural requirements of the Constitution. The court further reasoned that even if the House members had standing, the certification of the presiding officers of both houses of Congress served as "unimpeachable evidence" that the legislative branch had met its constitutional responsibilities in passing the bill.

Several provisions of the DRA severely restrict the ability of the elderly to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care. The law barely passed both houses of Congress. Then, due to the House Clerk making substantive changes to the law, the version ultimately passed by the House was different from the version passed by the Senate and signed by the President. This discrepancy, the House members argued in their suit, violated the constitutional requirement that a law pass both houses of Congress before it is sent to the President to be signed into law. The House members' suit is the third one challenging the DRA to be dismissed by a U.S. district court. In August, a suit by the consumer group Public Citizen, was thrown out by a district court in New York. One more suit, brought by former ElderLawAnswers member attorney Jim Zeigler, is still proceeding in U.S. District Court in Alabama.

Mayer Morganroth of the Michigan firm of Morganroth & Morganroth, which is representing the plaintiffs, told ElderLawAnswers, "we are definitely appealing, and we are confident that the dismissal will be overturned." He added, "[t]he Constitution requires that both houses pass the bill before it can become law, and a Congressman must not have his or her vote be nullified or denied!"