Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in 2022.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in 2022. STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Sues Joe Biden Over Signing Federal Spending Package

The attorney general argued the House unconstitutionally passed its federal spending bill because not enough members were physically present to vote. Both Republicans and Democrats voted by proxy throughout the pandemic.

"Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues Joe Biden over signing federal spending package" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

WASHINGTON — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued President Joe Biden on Wednesday for signing last year’s federal government funding package, arguing it was unlawfully passed out of Congress.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Lubbock, Paxton asserts the U.S. House requires a physical majority of its members to pass legislation. But most members of the House voted by proxy on the funding package, which Paxton argues makes it null.

The funding package, which passed out of the U.S. House to Biden’s desk last December, funds federal programs for the rest of the fiscal year. Only 201 members were in the chamber for the vote, with most other members having returned to their districts for the holiday recess. Members were able to vote by proxy under rules enacted by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi originally to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the Founding, ‘present’ meant ‘[n]ot absent; face to face; being at hand,’” Paxton wrote in his lawsuit, quoting a contemporaneous dictionary with the definition of “present.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Members of both parties routinely used proxy voting throughout the pandemic, including for reasons not related to dealing with or avoiding the disease. It was common practice to use proxy voting to deal with in-district affairs, conduct media appearances or meet with constituents. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy eliminated proxy voting after taking the gavel, arguing that it was being abused and not conducive to debate on the floor.

Paxton requested the court rule the omnibus package invalid and unenforceable.

The package includes $1.7 trillion in appropriations, including increased funding for Ukraine, the Defense Department and veterans care. The package had wide bipartisan support in the Senate but faced fierce opposition from Republicans in the House. U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, was particularly vocal in her opposition to the 22% increase in funding for nondiscretionary, nondefense programs.

Since taking control of the lower chamber, House Republicans have been angling to curb federal funding, using the debt ceiling to twist Democrats onto their plans. A handful of Texans have become leading voices in the effort including House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin.

Paxton also asserts that the package puts undue burden on the state through provisions designed to protect pregnant workers, including state employees. The package requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” related to pregnancy and childbirth and allows employees to sue if their employers do not comply.

Paxton argues the provision is unnecessary because Texas already offers pregnant state employees reasonable accommodations and that the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to open the state up to lawsuits over pregnancy accommodations.

Paxton also took issue with funding for programs to help asylum-seekers wait out their cases in the United States. The program includes assistance for housing and schooling, which Paxton asserts puts extra burden on the state “to spend additional monies on services to illegal aliens they would not otherwise spend.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/02/15/texas-ken-paxton-sues-joe-biden-spending-bill/. The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.