Members of Congress Who Die in Office: Historic and Current Practices [April 25, 2012]   [open pdf - 362KB]

"Since 1973, 84 Members of Congress--69 Representatives and 15 Senators--have died in office. When a sitting Member dies, the House and Senate carry out a number of actions based on chamber rules, statutes, and long-standing practices. Some observances, such as adjourning briefly as a mark of respect to the deceased, appointing Member delegations to attend funerals of deceased colleagues, or paying the costs of a funeral from public funds, were initially observed in the earliest Congresses, or predate the national legislature established under the Constitution. It appears that contemporary congressional response to the death of a sitting Member is affected by a number of external factors including the following: circumstances of the Member's death, preferences of the deceased Member or the Member's family regarding funeral services, whether Congress is in session when the Member dies, pending congressional business at the time of the Member's death, and events external to Congress at the time. Congressional response to the death of a sitting Member could be characterized as a broad set of actions that are determined in detail at or around the time of the death, in response to a wide array of factors. Broadly, these actions fall into five categories, including announcement or acknowledgment on the House or Senate floor; consideration of resolutions of condolence; a funeral or other rites; issues related to the deceased Member's office, staff, and survivor benefits; and publication of memorials."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34347
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