BOWSHER v. SYNAR

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
85-1377
Petitioner 
Mike Synar
Respondent 
Charles Arthur Bowsher
Consolidation 
No. 85-1378
No. 85-1379
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the appellant in No. 85-1377)
(Argued the cause for appellees Synar et al)
(Argued the cause for the appellants in No. 85-1379)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the appellant in No. 85-1378)
(Argued the cause for appellees National Treasury Employees Union et al)
Term:
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

Due to rising government budget deficits during the first term of the Reagan Administration, 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. This case was decided together with O'Neill v. Synar and United States Senate v. Synar.

Question 

Did the functions assigned by Congress to the Comptroller General of the United States under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Control Act of 1985 violate the doctrine of separation of powers?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Synar, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2: Separation of Powers

The Court found that the duties which the Congress delegated to the Comptroller General did violate the doctrine of separation of powers and were unconstitutional. A two step process led Chief Justice Burger to arrive at this conclusion. First, in exploring the statute defining the provisions of the Comptroller General's office relating to the Congress's power of removal, it was clear to Burger that this officer was subservient to the legislative branch. Second, in examining the functions that this officer would carry out under the Deficit Control Act, Burger concluded that the Comptroller General was being asked to execute the laws and, thus, was intruding on the prerogatives of the executive branch.

Cite this Page
BOWSHER v. SYNAR. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_1377>.
BOWSHER v. SYNAR, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_1377 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"BOWSHER v. SYNAR," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_1377.