House Passes Continuity Legislation

Posted April 22, 2004 at 4:09pm

After spirited and sometimes testy debate, the House on Thursday comfortably passed a measure to expedite special elections to within 45 days if more than 100 Members were killed.

The vote, 305-97, came after Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to allow consideration of an additional 10 amendments not included under the rule.

Seven Republicans and 89 Democrats voted against the legislation.

All 197 Members who caucus with the Democrats voted against the rule for debate, objecting to the GOP leadership’s refusal to provide a forum to debate a constitutional amendment that would allow for the temporary appointment of House Members. The exception to the overall partisanship was an amendment offered by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Missouri Reps. Ike Skelton (D.) and Roy Blunt (R) that would allow extra time for United States military personnel stationed overseas and overseas voters who wish to vote in the special elections. It was agreed to by voice vote.

“This is really a bipartisan issue. It should have a bipartisan work product,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who authored the bill, reaffirmed his long-standing opposition to an amendment and asserted his measure would ensure that the legislative branch could reconstitute itself swiftly while maintaining the framers’ intent of a “people’s House.”

Despite his opposition, Sensenbrenner opened the door to holding another hearing. One hearing was held by a Judiciary subcommittee in 2002.

“I will get your vote and your debate for you,” Sensenbrenner told the chair, aiming his comments at Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who has been pushing a constitutional amendment to solve the continuity problem since Sept. 11, 2001.