Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (the Act).
In 1985, Congress passed the Balanced Budget and Emergency
Deficit Control Act (the Act).
Trying to eliminate the deficit
The Act required the federal deficit to remain below certain
levels in each year, with the goal of eliminating the deficit by
If Exceed, OMB and CBO submit a report to Comptroller General
If the deficit in a given year exceeded the maximum, the Act
required the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget
and the Congressional Budget Office to submit a report to the
Comptroller General of the U.S. (Comptroller) (D)
stating where and to what extent the
budget would have to be cut.
Comptroller would evaluate and recommended to the President
The Comptroller was then to evaluate the report and advise the
President of his conclusions on the appropriate budget cuts.
President would Order Comptrollers recommendation, Unless
The President, in turn, was required to issue an order effecting
the Comptroller's recommendations, unless Congress distributed
the cuts differently within a specified period of time.
Comptroller Chosen By President provided by Congress
The Comptroller, a position created by statute in 1921, was
chosen by the President from a group of three provided by
Removal of Comptroller
Removal of the Comptroller could be achieved only through
joint resolution of Congress,
subject to a presidential veto.
Synar Challenged Act Agent of Congress with Executive
Congressman Synar (P) challenged the Act, claiming that the
essentially an agent of Congress, was allowed to perform
Violation of Separation of Powers
It is a violation of separation of powers for Congress to impose
executive functions on an officer over whom Congress has the
power of removal.
Comptroller's subservience to Congress
The broad power of Congress to remove the Comptroller from
office provides evidence of the Comptroller's subservience to
The Constitution allows Congress to remove officers charged with
executing its laws only by impeachment.
Different Impeachment reasons (Legislative vs. Executive)
Here, Congress can remove the Comptroller by joint resolution or
Moreover, the Comptroller can be removed from office for
"inefficiency," "neglect of
duty," or "malfeasance."
The Constitution allows impeachment of
executive officers only for
"Treason, Bribery, or other
High Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Comptroller as a part of the legislative branch
In addition, both Congress and the Comptroller have historically
viewed the Comptroller as a part of the legislative branch.
Act is not invalid, UNLESS the Comptroller required under the
Act to perform executive functions
But such a circumstance does not invalidate the Act unless the
Comptroller, a member of the legislative branch, is required
under the Act to perform executive functions.
Act requires Comptroller to engage in executive functions
The Act plainly does require
the Comptroller to engage in executive functions.
The Comptroller must exercise his judgment as to the budgetary
facts which determine how the Act is applied, and he must
interpret the Act in deciding which budget cuts are required.
Comptroller is ultimate authority
In fact, the Comptroller has the ultimate authority to determine
which budget cuts are to be made.
- Congress has intrude on the executive function
By placing the responsibility for execution of the Act in the
hands of an officer who is subject to removal only by itself,
Congress has in effect retained control over the Act's execution
and intruded into the executive function.
DISSENT Justice White
The majority's approach is overly formalistic and rests on a
provision for removal of the Comptroller that presents no real
threat to the separation of powers.
The role of Congress in removal of the Comptroller should not be
enough to make the Comptroller an agent of Congress who is thus
incapable of performing executive functions.