Utah lawmakers seek Constitutional amendment to allow mid-term appointments

Utah legislators discussed HCR2 in the House chamber on Friday, Feb. 23. The resolution urges a constitutional change allowing state governments to make temporary appointments to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Utah legislators officially urged Congress to amend the Constitution to allow state governments to make temporary appointments to the U.S. House of Representatives when vacancies occur.

The resolution, which was discussed in the House chamber Feb. 23, allows the state’s House to vote on a temporary representative if there’s a midterm vacancy.

The governor would then have to approve the representative to fill the vacant seat until a special election could take place. The resolution follows the confusion created by the midterm resignation of Jason Chaffetz, who held Utah’s 3rd Congressional District seat.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, sponsored HCR2, the concurrent resolution that petitions Congress to make this change.

This resolution recognizes that, by not permitting such temporary appointments, the Constitution leaves a state without its full representation in Congress until the vacancy can be filled, according to the resolution text.

The Constitution already allows for temporary appointments in the U.S. Senate, but not in the House.

“When the 17th Amendment was passed for the direct election of senators, Congress and the people allowed for the replacement of a midterm vacancy,” Eliason said. “However, they did not contemplate, either in the original constitutional convention or in the passage of the 17th amendment, the midterm replacement of a member of Congress.”

The resolution has been met with little opposition because of the simplicity of the text and the imminence of this bipartisan issue in the wake of Chafftetz’s resignation.

“Either we believe a representative form of government is good, and we the people would like to have our voices heard in Congress,” Eliason said. “Or we believe that a vacancy, for potentially many months like we experienced here, is okay.”

Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, jokingly asked Eliason if he understood the Senate is a higher body than the House, but he ultimately agreed representatives should receive the same treatment as senators.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, had concerns about the necessity of the resolution. He said Article Five of the Constitution allows states to propose amendments and wondered why the legislature was not doing so in this situation.

“Perhaps we should rely on the states, and our constitutional power, rather than Congress,” Ivory said.

Eliason said he knows amending the Constitution is not an easy procedure, but he believes it is the easiest solution to this issue.

He also said many votes in Congress have been extremely close lately, and no state wants to go without representation, especially when votes come down to a difference of one or two.

Since HCR2 is a resolution and not a bill, it will not become law. It simply shows Congress in a more official and urgent way that the states want action on this issue.

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