Incapacity of a Member of the Senate
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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There is no specific protocol, procedure, or authority set out in the United States Constitution, federal law, or congressional rule for the Senate or the House to recognize incapacity of a sitting Member and thereby declare a vacancy in such office. Under the general practice in the Senate as well as in the House, a personal incapacity of a sitting Member has not generated proceedings to declare the seat vacant, and sitting Members of the Senate and the House who have become incapacitated, and who have not resigned, have generally served out their terms of office. In one instance in the House, a Member-elect who was incapacitated and comatose, and thus could not present herself to take the oath of office Gladys Noon Spellman, of Maryland, was found not likely to recover, and the House proceeded to declare her seat vacant after the beginning of the new Congress. However, no such precedent exists for a sitting Member of either House who has taken the oath of office, and a vacancy with respect to such a sitting Member would generally exist only by virtue of resignation, death, acceptance of an incompatible office, or expulsion.
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