Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings
Deficit Control Act of 1985. The Act
was designed to eliminate the federal budget deficit by restricting
spending during fiscal years 1986 through 1991.
Under the law, if maximum
allowable deficit amounts were exceeded, automatic cuts, as requested by
the Comptroller General, would go into effect.
The US Supreme Court found
that the duties which the Congress delegated to the Comptroller General
did violate the doctrine of separation of powers and were unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court used a two
The Supreme Court felt that
that the Comptroller General was subservient to the Legislative Branch.
The Act gave Congress the
power to remove the Comptroller via means other than impeachment. The
power to fire gave Congress de facto control over him.
In order to remove the
Comptroller General, Congress would need to have both houses of
Congress vote to remove him, and the vote could be vetoed by the
President (like any normal bill).
Second, in examining the
functions that this officer would carry out under the Deficit Control
Act, the Court concluded that the
Comptroller General was being asked to execute the laws
and, thus, was intruding on the prerogatives of the Executive Branch.
In a dissent, Justice White's
argued that the Act should have been upheld.
Determining the level of
spending by the Federal government is a legislative function, not an
executive one, he argued. Even if the power were executive, White did not
see anything wrong with delegating that power to an agent as long as
Congress can only influence him by a means that is subject to the Presentment
Clause and Bicameralism
White felt that the Act met
those requirements, since the Comptroller can only be influenced by
Congress by a joint resolution.
Basically, Congress can only
write laws, they can't execute the laws. The Deficit Control Act basically had Congress ordering someone to
execute laws. Therefore, it violated separation of powers.
This ruling helped to
maintain the idea of the Administrative State that was jeopardized by INS
v. Chada (462 U.S. 919 (1983)), by arguing that the real
problem with INS v. Chada
was that Congress, after passing a law, had a continuing role in
executing the law, not that having Executive Branch agencies making laws
via rulemaking (thereby violating the Presentment Clause and separation of powers).
Administrative agencies can
make regulations, but Congress can't meddle with those regulations
(other than by passing explicit laws, bicamerally and with presentment).
Congress cannot be involved
in an executive function, vs. Congress can't engage in a legislative
function that doesn't meet the standards of bicameralism and presentment.