In a surprising decision, a federal judge has ruled in favor of Texas and Attorney General Ken Paxton, opening a pathway for other states to challenge the federal government. The judge ruled that the $1.7 trillion government funding bill passed in December 2022 was unconstitutional due to the House of Representatives’ use of proxy voting.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 5, requires a quorum, or majority, of members to be physically present to conduct official business. However, in response to the pandemic in May 2020, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi implemented a new voting rule allowing members to vote by proxy, without being physically present. This rule was used extensively, even allowing members to campaign or be thousands of miles away while still voting.

The issue came to a head in December 2022 when the House rushed to pass the massive spending bill. Despite 431 members voting on the bill, only 205 were present to cast their votes in person, with the rest voting by proxy. This raised questions about the legality of the vote, with Republicans like Kevin McCarthy challenging it as unconstitutional.

In February 2023, Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the federal government, arguing that the spending bill’s provision on pregnant workers imposed undue burdens on Texas. After a year of legal battles, the federal judge ruled that the bill was passed illegally, as it did not have a constitutionally required quorum present for the vote. As a result, two provisions of the bill related to pregnant workers were ruled unenforceable against Texas.

While this ruling only directly affects Texas, it sets a precedent for other states to challenge provisions of the spending bill. With the 2024 federal spending bill not passed and only short-term extensions in place, other states could use similar arguments to challenge provisions they disagree with. Paxton hailed the decision as upholding the Constitution, but it remains to be seen if the federal government will appeal.





Floating Vimeo Video