What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Protecting Rights of Congressional Minorities : H.R. 841. Governance/Vote on Final Passage of a Bill to Require, in Extraordinary Circumstances, States to Hold Special Elections to Fill Vacancies in the House of Representatives No More Than 49 Days After the Vacancy is Announced by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (2005 house Roll Call 52)
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H.R. 841. Governance/Vote on Final Passage of a Bill to Require, in Extraordinary Circumstances, States to Hold Special Elections to Fill Vacancies in the House of Representatives No More Than 49 Days After the Vacancy is Announced by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
house Roll Call 52     Mar 03, 2005
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the House passed a bill that would require states to hold special elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives no more than 49 days after the vacancies are announced by the Speaker of the House if more than 100 members of the House have been killed or incapacitated. This legislation was prompted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and had been discussed by Congress since that time. Progressives argued that 49 days was an insufficient period of time in which to put together fair and accurate special elections, and they pushed for a period of 60 days. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) stated that 60 days "is a more practical and realistic deadline, places less burden on the States, and still accomplishes the bill's goals to expedite special elections in a large number of States." She also noted that a 60-day deadline "would also allow some States more options if they wish to preserve their primary elections which at the insistence of the minority are no longer explicitly prohibited by this version of the legislation. But while primaries may no longer be barred, 49 days to hold both a primary and a special election is still a high bar to meet." Republicans countered that in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack or other disaster, the priority would be to ensure that the government of the United States could function, and that a 60-day period would leave too great of a vacuum. (The original language of the bill set forth a 45-day period, but Republicans later agreed to extend the period to 49 days.) Candace Miller (R-MI) argued that extending the time limit to 60 days would weaken the United States' ability to respond militarily to an event that took the lives of more than 100 members of Congress, because the War Powers Act requires Congress to approve or disapprove of any presidential military action within 60 days. She also stated that "[a] survey of election officials . . . shows that 49 days is a reasonable period of time in which to conduct a special election." The bill passed by a vote of 329 to 68, thus leaving a 49-day time period in the bill for states to hold special elections in the event more than 100 members of the House of Representatives are killed or incapacitated by a terrorist attack or other catastrophe.

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