Magazine article Science News

High Court Hits Key Part of Budget Law

Magazine article Science News

High Court Hits Key Part of Budget Law

Article excerpt

High court hits key part of budget law

The U.S. Supreme Court this week handed down its ruling on a challenge to the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, better known for the names of its Senate authors--Gramm, Rudman and Hollings. Writing for the majority in this 7-to-2 opinion, retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger ruled that one of the law's key provisions for executing automatic budget cuts "violates the doctrine of separation of powers,' and thus is unconstitutional.

In response, Sen. Warren Rudman (R.N.H.) termed the Supreme Court decision "a very minor setback,' and added that he still believes "the [Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law] is alive and well.'

Because the court's decision did not invalidate the entire Gramm-Rudman-Hollings (GRH) law, it leaves in limbo the status of the $11.7 billion curtailment in federal spending--including some $2.5 billion from research and development programs--that occurred on March 1, the day the first phase of the law went into effect (SN:3/1/86, p. 135).

What the Supreme Court did strike down was the task the law assigned to the Comptroller General, who heads the General Accounting Office. The comptroller was supposed to determine for the President how mandatory budget cuts would be distributed if federal spending for a given fiscal year would otherwise have exceeded limits specified in the GRH law. Since only Congress can remove the Comptroller General from office, Burger says it is clear that this officer is primarily answerable to the Congress, and therefore an officer of the Congress. …

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