I think that Chairman Sensenbrenner has very ably focused on two of the authors of the Federalist, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, in underscoring the fact that having this, the first branch of our government, the entity which is actually mentioned before any other, that being the people’s House, the House of Representatives is mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution, ahead of the United States Senate, and that realization, that not only as you said, Mr. Chairman, that every single Member who served here has only been elected, they have only served here based on their having been elected.
There is no other Federal office where that exists. We all know that one can obviously be appointed to a vacancy in the United States Senate. We know that one, we looked at President Ford, by virtue of appointment, can become President of the United States. But, the people’s House is the only place where that exists. And I know that that is something that is sacred. And to me, I believe that we should be very very careful before we look at the prospect of amending the U.S. Constitution. In fact, members of the Commission, and I want to congratulate them for their work, like our former minority leader, Bob Michel, said it very clearly when he looked at the fact that the constitutional amendment should be the very last resort.
I will tell you, as I approach a quarter of a century of service here in the House of Representatives, I have got to say that I voted for constitutional amendments in the past; and, frankly, I have changed my votes now on constitutional amendments. I used to vote for the flag-burning amendment. One of the reasons was that Jerry Solomon threw me up against the wall and threatened me if I don’t vote in favor of the flag amendment. But, before he passed away, I told him that I was voting against the flag burning amendment, and I voted for the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. But, you know what, if we had a constitutional amendment brought forward to balance the budget, requiring a balanced budget again, I would not vote in favor of that constitutional amendment, because we have proved that we can, in fact, balance the budget without amending the U.S. Constitution.
Similarly, I think that we need to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we maintain the nature that the Framers had for this institution. And that is why I am particularly pleased that the lead author of this important measure, Mr. Sensenbrenner, has said that we can look at moving beyond the 21 days as prescribed in our legislation. And I think that we should do that.
I just want to say that this is–what we ponder here is obviously a horrible thought. As the last person to leave the U.S. Capitol on September 11th, I was stupid enough to stay there up until 11 o’clock, upstairs there on the third floor. And I finally got out. And when you look at the Capitol and think about what could have happened, and of course what could have happened to our membership, it is just a terrible, terrible thought. So I will tell you that I think that as we look at this challenge that is ahead of us it is a difficult one, but please, please, please go very slowly.
Let me just say that as sort of the lone Republican who represents Hollywood, a number of people have speculated over exactly, because this is all kind of–this whole prospect of losing all of these Members of Congress could create a great science fiction movie. One proposal that has come forward for me as we look at the virus of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution and all of the unintended consequences that that might create, someone proposed a movie that was actually entitled, The Virus That Ate the Constitution.