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Summary

Texas filed this case in mid-February 2023 challenging parts of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023–a $1.7 trillion appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in December 2022. Texas claims to be injured by two unrelated provisions of the Act: (1) a $20 million allocation to DHS’s “Alternatives to Detention'' case management pilot program, which uses less expensive and more humane tools like GPS to monitor noncitizens who would otherwise be unnecessarily detained; and (2) the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” (PWFA) which newly requires covered employers–defined to include states as employers–to provide certain accommodations for pregnant employees. Although Texas seeks only to block these two provisions, its legal claim is that the Act is invalid because the House of Representatives allegedly did not have a quorum when it passed the Act (some members voted by proxy, which Texas argues was invalid). 

On July 28, 2023, Judge Hendrix denied the Biden Administration’s  motion to transfer this case to the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas.

In October 2023, Judge Hendrix notified the parties that their pending motions–the Biden Administration’s motion to dismiss the case in its entirety and Texas’s motion asking the Court to enjoin (block) the federal government from “taking any action to enforce” the Consolidated Appropriations Act–would be consolidated with a bench trial, after which Judge Hendrix will enter final judgment for one side or the other. Judge Hendrix directed the parties to come to trial prepared to discuss and, if necessary, present evidence on eleven specific topics.

The bench trial took place on January 22, 2024 in Lubbock, Texas. Judge Hendrix issued a final judgment on February 27, 2024, in which he held that Texas lacked standing to challenge the appropriation to the Alternatives to Detention program because it could not prove that it resulted in any injury to Texas. However, Judge Hendrix also held that Texas had standing to challenge the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 violated the Quorum Clause of the Constitution; as a result, Judge Hendrix issued a permanent injunction preventing the federal government from applying the PWFA to Texas. 

On April 26, 2024, the Biden Administration appealed Judge Hendrix’s decision to the Fifth Circuit. Texas has until May 10, 2024, to decide whether to file a cross appeal.

Technical Summary

Texas’s only claim for relief is that the Act violates the Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the Constitution (the “Quorum Clause”). Texas seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

The only significant difference between Texas’s original and amended complaints (which were filed on the same day) appears to be that the first one omitted as co-counsel the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing think tank based in Austin.

Of the eleven topics listed in Judge Hendrix’s October 2023 notice regarding consolidation on the merits: three have to do with the costs to Texas of complying with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; six relate to Texas’s standing to challenge the Alternatives to Detentions case management pilot program; and is the scope of the injunction Texas requests; and the last is the effect, if any, of the end of the federal government’s 2023 fiscal year on the scope of Texas’s challenge.​​​​​

 

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