WASHINGTON -- Congress approved a plan yesterday that would quickly replace members of the House in the event many die in an attack or disaster.
The so-called doomsday bill would require special elections within 49 days if more than 100 of the House's 435 members were killed.
Currently, it can take 75 days or more for some states to hold special elections to replace a member who dies in office or resigns.
The Senate has no such problem since the US Constitution allows governors to make temporary appointments to fill Senate vacancies.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there have been multiple evacuations of the Capitol because of incidents such as aircraft straying into protected zones over the city that have caused alarms to be raised.
As Congress has struggled to set new procedures in case of an attack on the Capitol, some lawmakers said that even a seven-week lag before special elections would leave too much power in the hands of the president during a national emergency.
The measure was attached to a spending bill to fund Congress's operations in the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1, and the Senate's vote yesterday sent it to the White House for President Bush's signature.