What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Protecting Rights of Congressional Minorities : A Democratic-requested procedural vote related to the Republican-drafted "Continuity in Representation Act" (HR 2844) in an attempt to keep the bill from advancing on the House floor. The bill provides a statutory plan for salvaging the legislative branch of government, in the event a large number of House lawmakers were killed, such as through a major terrorist attack. (2004 house Roll Call 126)
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A Democratic-requested procedural vote related to the Republican-drafted "Continuity in Representation Act" (HR 2844) in an attempt to keep the bill from advancing on the House floor. The bill provides a statutory plan for salvaging the legislative branch of government, in the event a large number of House lawmakers were killed, such as through a major terrorist attack.
house Roll Call 126     Apr 22, 2004
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

Conservatives prevailed on this procedural vote related to the (HR 2844) a bill to have a contingency plan in place for salvaging the legislative branch of government, in the event a large number of House lawmakers were killed, such as through a major terrorist attack. H.R. 2844, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), provides that, if more than 100 House Members are killed, the Speaker of the House can declare that ``extraordinary circumstances'' exist. Such a declaration would trigger, within 45 days, expedited special elections in those districts whose members have been killed. The political parties are given 10 days within which to nominate candidates for these elections. Conservatives argued that the bill upholds an important constitutional principle that the government should neither exist nor change barring the express will of the people. Without an elected House, conservatives reasoned, legislation could be passed by a federal government composed entirely of the unelected. The measure was conceived of after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of the chance of a large number of members dying simultaneously. The procedural vote, in which conservatives prevailed 210-198, was on whether the House should "move the previous question" and take up a resolution drafted by the House Rules Committee (HRES 602), which laid out the parameters for consideration of (H.R. 2844), the Continuity in Representation Act. Moving the previous question means the measure at hand cannot be debated or amended, and must be voted on immediately. But House Rules ranking member Martin Frost (D-Texas), urged a 'no' vote on the procedural measure, and emphasized that the underlying bill was heady stuff, given that "no member in the history of this body has ever taken the oath of office without first having been elected by the people." Despite that seriousness, Frost said the resulting bill was not the "thoughtful, serious, nonpartisan" legislation progressives had hoped for. "What we got instead was a poorly thought out and wholly inadequate response to the questions we raised two years ago," Frost said. Conservatives defended the bill, saying the proposed 45-day window for organizing new elections was ample, and disagreed with progressives that a series of constitutional amendments would better serve those aims than the bill. Progressives believe a quick reconstitution of the House in the event of mass member deaths is the most important consideration, and, thus, support a constitutional amendment allowing for the appointment of temporary replacements to fill vacant House seats. Supporters of temporary appointments believe they would ensure that House membership would not be severely depleted in the weeks or even months that might be needed to schedule special elections. From their perspective, the appointments could also demonstrate the country's determination to continue a representative form of government, even in extraordinary times. Moreover, they argue that restricting the use of appointment authority and requiring large number of vacancies to occur before the measures could be invoked would help to safeguard against using the measures in situations other than extreme emergencies. But because Democrats failed to stop the procedural motion, which outlined the parameters for debate but precluded Democrats from bringing the merits of a constitutional amendment up for debate, progressives were barred from being able to broach the constitutional question during the floor discussion in any meaningful way.

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