Bowsher v. Synar

478 U.S. 714 (1986)


The purpose of the Act is to eliminate the federal budget deficit. The Act requires across-the-board cuts in federal spending to reach the targeted deficit level, with half of the cuts made to defense programs and the other half made to nondefense programs. 'Automatic' reductions are accomplished through 'reporting provisions' of the Act. The Directors of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) independently estimate the amount of the federal budget deficit and if over the specified amounts independently calculate, on a program-by-program basis, the budget reductions necessary to ensure that the deficit does not exceed the maximum deficit amount. The Act then requires the Directors to report jointly their deficit estimates and budget reduction calculations to the Comptroller General (D). D then reports his conclusions to the President. The President, in turn, must issue a 'sequestration' order mandating the spending reductions specified by D. A period follows during which Congress may by legislation reduce spending to obviate, in whole or in part, the need for the sequestration order. If such reductions are not enacted, the sequestration order becomes effective, and the spending reductions included in that order are made. Congressman Synar (P) filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief that the Act was unconstitutional. The National Treasury Employees Union (P) also filed alleging that its members had been injured as a result of the Act's automatic spending reduction provisions, which have suspended certain cost-of-living benefit increases to the Union's members. A three-judge District Court invalidated the reporting provisions. Although the District Court concluded that the Act survived a delegation doctrine challenge, it held that the role of the Comptroller General in the deficit reduction process violated the constitutionally imposed separation of powers: Executive powers cannot constitutionally be exercised by an officer removable by Congress. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.