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Archive for February, 2011

CRS — Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives: 1933 to 2009

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives: 1933 to 2009 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

From 1933 to 2009 (the 73rd Congress through the 111th Congress), the U.S. House of Representatives considered 107 contested election cases. The vast majority of these cases were resolved in favor of the contestee, a term referring to a Member or Member-elect of the House of Representatives whose election was challenged. The term contestant refers to an individual who challenged the election of a Member-elect of the House of Representatives. It appears that of the 107 contested election cases considered by the House since 1933, in at least three cases, the House ultimately seated the contestant, and in at least one case, the House ultimately refused to seat any individual, declaring a vacancy. In the majority of the other cases, the contest was dismissed based on reasons including lack of evidence; a determination that voting irregularities, fraud, or misconduct was insufficient to affect the results of the election; failure to sustain the burden of proof necessary to award the contested seat to the contestant; and improper initiation of a contest or other procedural failures.

With regard to procedures followed on the first day of a new Congress, of the 107 contested election cases considered by the House since 1933, it appears that in at least 15 cases, the Member-elect was asked to “step aside” or “remain seated” while the oath of office was collectively administered to the other Members-elect. Of those 15 cases where a Member-elect was asked to step aside, it appears that in at least two instances, the Member-elect was subsequently administered the oath on an expressly provisional basis. In at least two of the 15 cases where a Member-elect was asked to step aside, the House declined to administer the oath of office to that Member-elect, until after the committee to which the question was referred had conducted an investigation and issued a report. In the remaining 11 of the 15 cases where a Member-elect was asked to step aside, in most instances, the House adopted a resolution providing merely that the Member-elect “be now permitted” to take the oath of office, with no specific reference to final determination of the right to the seat nor any express reference to a filed election contest.

As has been noted by House Parliamentarians, the seating of a Member-elect does not prejudice a contest pending under the Federal Contested Elections Act (FCEA) regarding the final right to a seat. The summaries of contested election cases contained in this report focus primarily on the nature of the contest and the disposition of the case. For more detailed information regarding each contest, it is important to consult relevant House records. This report examines only cases considered by the House of Representatives involving the question of whether a Member-elect was duly elected, that is, questions regarding elections and returns, not questions regarding qualifications (age, citizenship, and inhabitancy). Cases decided at the state level are beyond the scope of this report. Furthermore, information contained in this report is derived solely from findings made by the reporting congressional committee or as documented in the Congressional Record; CRS did not make any of the findings independently.

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Injuries Associated With Cribs, Playpens, and Bassinets Among Young Children in the US, 1990–2008

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Injuries Associated With Cribs, Playpens, and Bassinets Among Young Children in the US, 1990–2008
Source: Pediatrics

This study is the first to use a nationally representative sample to examine injuries associated with cribs, playpens, and bassinets. Given the consistently high number of observed injuries, greater efforts are needed to ensure safety in the design and manufacture of these products, ensure their proper usage in the home, and increase awareness of their potential dangers to young children.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

CRS — Perjury Under Federal Law: A Brief Overview

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Perjury Under Federal Law: A Brief Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

Although it now covers more than court proceedings, the definition of perjury has not changed a great deal otherwise since the framing of the Constitution. Blackstone described it as “a crime committed when a lawful oath is administered, in some judicial proceeding, to a person who swears wilfully, absolutely and falsely, in a matter material to the issue or point in question.”

There are three general federal perjury laws. One, 18 U.S.C. 1621, outlaws presenting material false statements under oath in federal official proceedings. A second, 18 U.S.C. 1623, bars presenting material false statements under oath before or ancillary to federal court or grand jury proceedings. A third, 18 U.S.C. 1622 (subornation of perjury), prohibits inducing or procuring another to commit perjury in violation of either Section 1621 or Section 1623.

In most cases, the courts abbreviate their description of the elements and state that to prove perjury under Section 1623 the government must establish that the defendant “(1) knowingly made a (2) false (3) material declaration (4) under oath (5) in a proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury of the United States.” The courts generally favor the encapsulation from United States v. Dunnigan to describe the elements of Section 1621: “A witness testifying under oath or affirmation violates this section if she gives false testimony concerning a material matter with the willful intent to provide false testimony, rather than as a result of confusion, mistake, or faulty memory.” Section 1622 outlaws procuring or inducing another to commit perjury: “Whoever procures another to commit any perjury is guilty of subornation of perjury, and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both,” 18 U.S.C. 1622.

The false statement statute, 18 U.S.C. 1001, is closely akin to the perjury statutes. It outlaws false statements in any matter within the jurisdiction of a federal agency or department, a kind of perjury with oath prohibition. Moreover, regardless of the offense for which an individual is convicted, his sentence may be enhanced as a consequence of any obstruction of justice in the form of perjury or false statements for which he is responsible, if committed during the course of the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing for the offense of his conviction. The enhancement may result in an increase in his term of imprisonment by as much as four years.

This report is available in abbreviated form–without footnotes, quotations, or citations–as CRS Report 98-807, Perjury Under Federal Law: A Sketch of the Elements. Both versions have been excerpted from CRS Report RL34303, Obstruction of Justice: An Overview of Some of the Federal Statutes That Prohibit Interference with Judicial, Executive, or Legislative Activities. Excerpted portions of RL34303 are also available as follows. CRS Report RS22783, Obstruction of Justice: An Abridged Overview of Related Federal Criminal Laws; CRS Report RL34304, Obstruction of Congress: A Brief Overview of Federal Law Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities; and CRS Report RS22784, Obstruction of Congress: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Laws Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities. All are by Charles Doyle.

See also: Perjury Under Federal Law: A Sketch of the Elements (PDF)

New From the GAO

February 28, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Correspondence (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office
28 February 2011
+ Reports
1. 401(k) Plans: Improved Regulation Could Better Protect Participants from Conflicts of Interest
2. Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Potential Effects of Changing Comparability Requirements
3. Defense Health: Management Weaknesses at Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Require Attention
4. Surface Freight Transportation: A Comparison of the Costs of Road, Rail, and Waterways Freight Shipments That Are Not Passed on to Consumers
5. National Archives: Framework Governing Use of Presidential Library Facilities and Staff

+ Correspondence
1. Motor Carrier Safety: FMCSA Has Devoted a Small but Increasing Amount of Resources to Develop the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program but Is Requesting a Significant Increase for Full Implementation

CRS — Committee Types and Roles

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Committee Types and Roles (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

Congress divides its legislative, oversight, and internal administrative tasks among more than 200 committees and subcommittees. Within assigned areas, these functional subunits gather information; compare and evaluate legislative alternatives; identify policy problems and propose solutions; select, determine, and report measures for full chamber consideration; monitor executive branch performance (oversight); and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

The 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act (60 Stat. 812) sets the framework for the modern committee system. The act organized the Senate and House committees along roughly parallel lines, but divergences have emerged over time. Within the guidelines of chamber rules, each committee adopts its own rules addressing organizational, structural, and procedural issues. As a consequence, there is considerable variation among panels and across chambers. At the beginning of the 111th Congress, there were 20 standing committees in the House with 98 subcommittees, and two select committees.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress, there were 20 standing committees in the House with 98 subcommittees, and two select committees.

CRS — Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the House of Representatives

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the House of Representatives (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

The Speaker usually does not take the initiative to prevent the House from considering proposals or taking actions that would violate the House’s rules.1 Instead, whenever a Member believes that the House’s legislative procedures are being violated in some way, or are about to be violated, that Member may insist that the House’s procedures be enforced by making a point of order against the alleged violation. Points of order against measures or amendments may be waived in the House by unanimous consent, pursuant to a special rule reported from the Rules Committee and adopted by majority vote on the floor, or via suspension of the rules.

A Federal Shutdown Could Derail the Recovery

February 28, 2011 Comments off

A Federal Shutdown Could Derail the Recovery (PDF)
Source: Moody’s Analytics (via Washington Post)

+ Odds are uncomfortably high that the federal budget impasse will prompt a government shutdown.

+ The Obama administration has shown significant spending restraint in its recent budget, but House Republicans want deeper cuts.

+ While cuts and tax increases are necessary to address the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, cutting too deeply before the economy is in full expansion would add unnecessary risk.

+ The House Republicans’ proposal would reduce 2011 real GDP growth by 0.5% and 2012 growth by 0.2%. This would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.

+ A government shutdown lasting longer than a couple of weeks would do much more damage to the economy.

+ Lawmakers are likely to split the difference between the administration and House Republican proposals. This isn’t ideal fiscal policy, but the economy will be able to manage through it.

+ A compromise could send an encouraging signal about the more serious budget battles to come.

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