House Vacancies: Proposed Constitutional Amendments for Filling Them Due to National Emergencies [August 12, 2003]   [open pdf - 51KB]

From the Summary: "The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and concern about the possible use of nuclear, biological, chemical, and other weapons against the United States have led some Members to consider proposed constitutional amendments for filling House vacancies if a significant number of Members were unable to serve due to a national emergency. A privately-funded group created to focus on the continuity of government has recommended adoption of a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the authority to provide by law for temporary appointments to fill House vacancies after a catastrophic attack and to temporarily fill the seats of incapacitated House and Senate Members. During the 107th Congress, proposed constitutional amendments-H.J.Res. 67, H.J.Res. 77, and S.J.Res. 30 -would have allowed temporary appointments to the House under prescribed circumstances. The proposals were not the first of their kind. For example, from 1945 through 1962, more than 30 proposed constitutional amendments were offered to provide for filling House vacancies in the event of a national emergency. During this period, hearings were held in the House and Senate, and three measures were passed in the Senate, but none passed in the House. Supporters contend that such a constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure continuity of the legislative process and the effective representative operations of the House. Opponents argue that it would violate a basic principle of the House, whose Members have been directly elected by the people since its inception."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32031
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