A federal judge in Texas ruled on Feb. 27 that a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package was unconstitutionally passed in the House of Representatives in 2022 using a pandemic-era rule implemented, in part, by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In his ruling (pdf), U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock determined that the House of Representatives violated the Quorum Clause of the Constitution when it used a rule created in 2020 that permitted non-present members to be included in the quorum count and to vote by proxy.

Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi helped implement the proxy voting rule, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as an emergency measure.

House lawmakers used the proxy voting rule to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 when more than half of the House, then led by Democrats, were not physically present to provide a quorum.

The House ended its use of proxy voting when Republicans took the majority following the 2022 election.

“Supreme Court precedent has long held that the Quorum Clause requires presence, and the Clause’s text distinguishes those absent members from the quorum and provides a mechanism for obtaining a physical quorum by compelling absent members to attend,” Judge Hendrix, who was appointed under President Donald Trump, said.

“The Court concludes that, by including members who were indisputably absent in the quorum count, the Act at issue passed in violation of the Constitution’s Quorum Clause,” the judge concluded.

Texas Files Lawsuit

Judge Hendrix’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking to block two provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security’s Alternatives to Detention Case Management Pilot Program.

The PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, while $20 million was appropriated to fund the pilot program that offers voluntary case management and other services to illegal immigrants in removal proceedings.

Mr. Paxton’s lawsuit (pdf) argued Texas already accommodates the “reasonable needs of its pregnant employees as a matter of course” but that the PWFA “purports to subject it to the costs, hassles, and attendant risks of administrative proceedings, investigations, and lawsuits, by both private individuals and the federal government, should either an individual or the federal government feel that the State should indulge unreasonable demands.”

Meanwhile, the pilot program causes Texas and its local governments “to spend additional monies on services to illegal aliens they would not otherwise spend,” Mr. Paxton’s lawsuit argued.

‘Stunning Violation of the Rule of Law’

In his ruling, Judge Hendrix determined Texas was able to prove injury regarding the PWFA, but said that the state did not provide sufficient evidence to show any injury from the Case Management Pilot Program.

The judge ultimately enjoined the defendants in the lawsuit—the United States Attorney General, the United States Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and their officials—from enforcing the PWFA. However, the injunction only applies to state government employees and not other workers in Texas.

Additionally, the judge noted the “limited scope” of the case, and that Texas was not seeking an injunction against the entire spending law, only the two provisions.

In a statement following the ruling, Mr. Paxton’s office said 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.”

“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,” said Attorney General Paxton.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Department of Justice, which defended the bill on behalf of President Joe Biden’s administration, for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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