Re: Question: Is Public Law 98-473, known as the Comprehensive
Crime Control Act of 1984, Senate Bill S. 1762, legal under the
Constitution of the United States?
Because of your renowned integrity as a Senator, we have chosen
you as the person to whom to present the above question. We are
sure you will give us a truthful answer.
We are retired senior citizens and have been researching the enactment
of Public Law 98-473. This is what we have learned.
The Senate introduced a Comprehensive Crime Control package as
bill S. 1762. This bill was never reviewed or voted on by the House
of Representatives. Instead, bill S. 1762 was attached to a Continuing
Appropriations bill (H.R. 648) and sent to the President for his
signature to become Public Law 98-473.
Public Law 98-473 has touched the life, liberty and property of
WE THE PEOPLE. Therefore, this is considered major legislation.
It has been established that all major legislation must be reviewed
and voted on by both the Senate and the House of Representatives
before it is presented to the President for signature. This was
not the case with S. 1762.
This massive Crime Control bill circumvented the bicameral requirement
of Article I, Section 7, clause 2 of the Constitution of the United
States. It is therefore NULL and VOID. It is unconstitutional and
without any legal force or effect. Please get back to us and clarify
this matter which is of the greatest importance to the citizens
of this great nation.
|Ruth and Francisco Correa.
|United States Senate
|June 19, 2000 (excerpted)
| Dear Mr and Mrs Correa,
Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the opportunity to learn
of your concerns.
As you may know, S. 1762 was introduced on August 4, 1983, by Senator
Strom Thurmond (R-SC). This legislation was passed with additional
amendments on February 2, 1984. On June 28, 1984, this bill was
introduced into the House of Representatives by Congressman Hamilton
Fish (R-NY) as H.R. 5963. Rather than being voted on as a stand
alone bill, H.R. 5963 was attached to House Resolution 648 as an
amendment. H. Res. 648 was passed on September 25, 1984. The vote
to include H.R. 5963 as an amendment and the subsequent vote to
approve H. Res. 648 meets the requirements needed for H.R. 5963
to be considered passed in the House of Representatives.
As you noted, Public Law 98-473 required bicameral support, which
it received through the passage of S. 1762 and H. Res. 648. Passing
both the House and the Senate allowed this to become public law.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns on this
important issue. Knowing how you feel helps me to better represent
you and the state of Florida in the United States Senate.
|United States Senator
| Mr and Mrs Francisco Correa
|August 24, 2000 by certified mail
|Dear Senator Mack,
|Re: Your letter dated June 9, 2000
Thank you for responding to our letter regarding Public Law 98-473.
We must respectfully disagree with the position you have taken.
There are a couple of significant issues which have been consistently
overlooked. First, contrary to your assessment, the Crime Control
Bill of 1983, known as H.R. 5963, was never considered or approved
by a majority vote on the floor of the House. H.R. 5963 contained
46 parts. The House passed only 15 parts. 4 more parts passed the
Judiciary Committee. No other parts were reported by subcommittees,
and only 3 more parts were subjected to hearings. 24 parts of the
crime bill never received any House action whatsoever. As a matter
of fact and record, large portions of H.R. 5963 languished and remained
in the House Judiciary Committee and subcommittees throughout the
vote for its approval.
The September 25, 1984, House vote was not aimed at passing a "substantive
legislation measure" in conformity with the expressed procedures
of the Constitution's prescription for legislative enactments. Instead,
the vote was aimed at approving a made-to-order rule change allowing
amendments which have been considered and passed by the House. However,
the vote approving the attachment of H.R. 5963 to the continuing
House Resolution 648 was unconstitutional. The reason being that
H.R. 5963 had never been considered in its totality or passed by
a majority of the House of Representatives. The explicit prescription
for legislative action contained in Article I cannot be amended
by legislation or made-to-order rule changes. See INS vs. Chadha,
462 US 919, 77 L.Ed. 2d. 317, 103 S.Ct. 2764 (1983).
The history of the Comprehensive Crime Control Bill dates back
to the second session of the 97th Congress. The 1982 House Bill
Records at Page 2466 records the evolution of H.R. 3963, which came
to rest with President Reagan's pocket veto on January 3, 1983.
See 128 Congressional Record 33435. The following facts and events
are quoted verbatim from the House Bill Records showing a fundamental
disagreement between the two legislative bodies:
|"H.R. 3963 - to amend the contract services for Drug Dependent
Offenders Act of 1978 to extend the periods for which funds
are authorized to be appropriated - Reported (no no written
report), 25895. - Amended and passed Senate (in lieu of S. 2572),
26581. - Senate insisted on its amendments and asked for a conference.
Conferees appointed, 26611. - House disagreed with Senate Amendment,
12275. - Senate further insisted on its amendments and asked
for a conference, 28439. - Conferees appointed , 28441. - House
disagreed to Senate amendment and agreed to further conference.
Conferees appointed, 29696. - Senate further insisted on its
amendments, 32270. - House concurred in Senate amendment, 32886.
- Rules suspended and House receded from disagreement to amendment
of Senate and concurred with an amendment, 32916. - Senate concurred
in House amendment to Senate amendment, 32767-32785. - Examined
and signed , 33434, 33629. - Presented to the President, 33435.
Pocket vetoed, 33432."
President Reagan pocket vetoed House Resolution 3963 after the
second session of the 97th Congress adjourned sine die on December
23, 1982. A Presidential message was received by Congress on January
20, 1983. See 192 Senate Journal at 754; also see 128 Congressional
record at 33432; finally see volume 19 weekly compilation of Presidential
documents for January 14, 1983, at 47.
On March 14, 1983, the President sent his message to Congress explaining
his reasons for the pocket veto of the Comprehensive Crime Control
Act of 1983, (H.R. 3963). The veto message did contain a 42 point
proposal outlining the Administration's position in the areas of
bail reform, forfeitures, insanity, sentencing, etc. The Presidential
message to Congress was delivered and read by Senator Strom Thurmond
of South Carolina. Senator Thurmond was one of the sponsors of the
Crime Control Bill vetoed by the President.
On March 16, 1983, Senators Strom Thurmond and Paul Laxalt introduced
the Administration's 42 point proposal as Senate Bill S. 829, which
contained the President's version of the Comprehensive Crime Control
legislation. See 129 Congressional Record - 53076. It should be
noted that the vetoed Comprehensive Crime Bill of 1983 was never
reconsidered by either the House or the Senate because it was common
knowledge in both legislative chambers that the House would never
have a two-thirds vote of approval to override the President's veto.
By September, 1983, the Senate Judiciary Committee had dismantled
the Administration's 42 point proposal (S. 829) into a number of
individual legislative proposals. Senator Kennedy introduced a bill
seeking sentencing reform (S. 668). See 98th Congress, 1st session;
129 Congressional Record - 22883. Senators Thurmond and Biden introduced
a bill cotitled "Comprehensive Crime Control Act" (S. 1762). See
98th Congress, 1st session; 129 Congressional Record - 22884.
On Friday, January 27, 1984, the Senate convened at 12 noon. Senator
Baker addressing the Chair stated:
|"� at no later than 1 o'clock today and perhaps earlier, if
there is no further requirement for morning business, it is
the intention of the leadership on this side to ask the Senate
to turn to the consideration of S. 1762, the Comprehensive Crime
Control Act of 1983 �."
On January 31, 1984, Senator Mathias addressing the Senate's President,
gave a clear indication the S. 1762, and the Comprehensive Crime
Control Act of 1983 vetoed by President Reagan, are identical bills
in scope, intent, and purpose:
|"Mr President, once more I will vote no on the crime legislation
that is once more before Senate. I opposed a virtually identical
bill last year during the 97th Congress, and nothing has occurred
since then to change my view point on this legislation."
Ultimately, on February 2, 1984, just five days into the Senate
Debate on S. 1762, the omnibus crime bill known as the Comprehensive
Crime Control Act of 1983 once again passed the Senate by 91 yeas
to only 1 nay. The Senate's actions in passing substantive legislation
can hardly be considered transparent in light of the Senate's Rules
and Regulations. However, what followed in the House of Representatives
on September 25, 1984, and culminated in the Senate 10 days later
can only be considered an obvious violation of Article I, Section
1 and 7 of the US Constitutional requirements of "bicameralism."
Following the passage of the omnibus crime bill by the Senate's
majority, S. 1762 came down to the House of Representatives in the
part of February 1984. Once again in 1984, as in previous years,
the House Judiciary Committee was inclined to take a very different
approach to sentencing reform and substantive anti-crime legislation
that the Senate rushed through. See "The Rush to Misjudgment on
Crime," New York Times, February 6,1984, at A-18, criticizing the
Senate's hastily passed anti-crime bill.
On June 7, 1984, Representative Conyer's Subcommittee on Criminal
Justice presented to the House Judiciary Committee a proposal which
rejected the entire concept of a Sentencing Commission and sentencing
guidelines. See H.R. 4827, 98th Congress, 2nd session 1984
Finally in August 1984, the full House Committee approved a last
minute compromise measure, H.R. 6012. But the proposal had few ardent
supporters. See Congressional Record - 26834 through 26838, 1984.
With the end of the fiscal year, and election day just 42 days away,
House members were anxious to hit the campaign trail. Representative
Dan Lungren from California and a member of the House Judiciary
Committee took the first step in pushing the House to act on the
Senate's omnibus crime bill, S. 1762.
On September 25, 1984, when H.R. 648, the continuing appropriations
resolution, reached the House floor, Representative Lungren moved
to have H.R. 648 "recommitted" to the Appropriations Committee,
with instructions to return the funding bill to the House floor
with the Senate's bill (S. 1762, the Comprehensive Crime Control
Act of 1983) attached. It is important to point out at this juncture
that the government had only six days before it ran out of money,
and the Senate's entire Comprehensive Crime Control Act, S. 1862,
was now attached to the "must pass" appropriations bill. Had the
House decided to permit full consideration of S. 1762, as required
by the "becameral process," and thereby delay the passage of H.R.
648, the Federal government would have shut down.
It appears that the majority of legislators were more concerned
with the fiscal-government shutdown that with the preservation of
the Constitution' bicameral process requirements. A fact explicitly
recognized by Representative Witten from Mississippi, as he was
expressing his fears on the floor of the House:
|"What ever the reason for our present situation, the problem
is that on October 1st we begin a new Fiscal Year and unless
we act quickly, practically the whole government comes to a
stand still." See Congressional Record - House 10025, September
Equally troubled, Representative Myers from Indiana also echoed
similar concerns to those voiced moments earlier by Representative
Witten addressing the Chairman:
|"� that is because on Sunday night, if we do not pass this
CR, or some continuing resolution, major portions of our Federal
government are going to be shut down�." See Congressional Record
- House 10027, September 25, 1984.
Representative Witten, after complaining about the number of amendments
added by the Senate, announced:
|"Mr Chairman, today I bring to the floor of the House a resolution
which will continue the orderly operations of the government.
The rule that we are operating under today provides for the
House to work its will on eleven amendments."
Representative Lott speaking from the floor indicated that the
Rules Committee lost their motion to present a "clean bill" (H.R.
648). Mr Lott suggested:
|"� that as long as we are taking this task we should use the
opportunity to add just one item that doesn't involve spending
a lot of additional money - it authorizes a minimal amount -
and yet should be one of our top priorities in these waning
days of the 98th Congress. I am referring to the Administration's
omnibus anti-crime package. The other body passed S 1762, the
Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, on February2 of this
year by a vote of 91 to 1. The ranking Republican on the House
Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr Fish),
introduced that identical bill as H.R. 5963 on June 28 of this
year. And yet, both bills continue to languish in the House
Judiciary Committee �." See Congressional Record - House 10026,
September 25, 1984.
Representative Fish from New York took the floor in support of
allowing more amendments to H.R. 648, but not without reservation
on the "unorthodox" procedure - referring to the Comprehensive Crime
Control Act, S. 1762. Mr Fish recognized the following:
|"The failure to consider this important package rests on the
House leaders who have prevented this body from acting upon
criminal law reforms�. It is this extraordinary refusal to permit
consideration of crime issues which has led to these procedures
� Mr Speaker, S. 1762, and its companion, H.R. 5963, contained
46 parts. The House has passed only 15 parts. Four more have
passed the Judiciary Committee. No others have been reported
by subcommittees, and only 3 more have been the subject of hearings.
Mr Speaker, 24 parts of their Comprehensive Crime Control Act
have received no House action whatsoever. Over half of the bipartisan
Senate crime bill, which not a single Senate Democrat voted
against, has not been subjected to hearings. Mr Speaker, because
of the slow process for the last year and a half that has brought
us to this point, there is no time for Congress to act on all
this legislation individually." See Congressional Record - House
10026, September 25, 1984.
Representative Meyers also supported amending the Senate's Comprehensive
Crime Control Act, S. 1762, to H.R. 648, the continuing appropriations
bill, but went on record stating:
|" � this is an appropriations bill. The amendments that have
been made in order by this rule have been considered and passed
by the House. To include this crime bill which has not yet been
considered by the House and would be allowed only one half-
hour for such an important bill is not the way to make law.
The crime problem is too important to limit the discussion and
not even allow possible amendments." See Congressional Record
- House 10027, September 25, 1984.
Similarly, Representative Quillen went on record to air his concerns
about the proposed amendments:
|"I do not want anyone to feel that Jim Quillen does not support
the anti-crime package, I do. I think the way that it is being
proposed today is not correct�. The continuing resolution is
not the place for the anti-crime measure. It deserves special
attention. It deserves a special schedule on the floor of the
House. It deserves full debate because it is so important to
America, but tacking it on to a continuing resolution is merely
making a point, and I do not think at this late hour it is the
time to do it. We all know the importance of the anti-crime
package. This is not the vehicle, we are only making a show."
See Congressional Record - House 10028-29, September 25, 1984.
Representative Hughes, the Chairman of the House Crime Subcommittee,
went on record stating his concerns:
|"Mr Speaker, I want to say this to my colleague, the gentleman
from Tennessee, that he is absolutely right; it is a show and
I regret it because crime is really not a partisan issue �.
Here my colleagues now want to offer in the continuing resolution
bills that have never been taken up in the Congress Measures,
in some instance that we bypass � now they want to tack these
bills on to the continuing resolution without the benefit of
hearings, debate, or thoughtful examination�. So I would urge
my colleagues to vote for the previous question. Placing non-germane
measures on the continuing resolution is no way to legislate�."
Although H.R. 648, the appropriations bill, was ultimately approved
in roll No. 411, by 218 yeas to 174 nays, these excerpts from the
House Congressional Record clearly demonstrate the total disregard
for the "bicameral" requirements of Article I, Sections 1 and 7.
It appears that the 218 yeas, the majority and leadership of the
House of Representatives, were more concerned with going home than
preserving the Constitution as their office oath clearly provides.
Representative Myers, in expressing his support for the unconstitutional
made-to-order rule triggering the unicameral amendment of the Senate's
Comprehensive Crime Control Act, S. 1762, to the continuing resolution,
H.R. 648, stated for the record:
|"Mr Speaker, I rise in support of the rule, and I am opposed
to any other move to not approve this rule. I recognize that
this rule does provide more than many of us would like to see,
but this hour in this session of the Congress, when most members
want to go home, and recognizing the responsibility that we
have here in the House to complete the nation's work � I see
no other choice but to support this rule today." See Congressional
Record - House 10027, September 25, 1984.
The latter quoted verbatim statements, taken from the Congressional
House-Bill Records, are instructive to the reader and clearly indicate
on which side of the Constitution's "bicameral" mandate the 218
majority of the convened House of Representatives stood on September
It should also be noted that the "bicameral requirements" were
of great concern to the framers of the nation's Constitution, by
providing that no law could take effect without the concurrence
of the prescribed majority of the members of both Houses. The framers
reemphasized their explicit intentions and clear belief that legislation
should not be enacted unless it has been "carefully" and "fully
considered" by the nation's elected officials.
In the Constitutional Convention debate on the need for "bicameral"
legislation, James Wilson, later to become a Justice of the Supreme
|"Despotism comes on mankind in different shapes, sometimes
in an executive, sometimes in a military one. Is there danger
of a legislative despotism? Theory and practice both proclaim
it. If the legislative authority be not restrained, there can
be neither liberty nor stability; and it can only be restrained
by dividing it within itself, into distinct and independent
branches. In a single House there is no check, but the inadequate
one of the virtue and good sense of those who compose it." See
1 Ferrand 254; also see INS vs Chadra, 462 U.S. 919, 77 L.Ed.
2nd. 317 at 343.
Hamilton argued that a Congress comprised of a single house was
antithetical to the very purpose of the Constitution. Were the nation
to adopt a Constitution providing for only one legislative organ,
|"We shall finally accumulate, in a single body, all the most
important prerogatives of sovereignty, and thus entail upon
our posterity one of the most execrable forms of government
that human infatuation ever contrived. Thus we should create
in reality that very tyranny which the adversaries of the new
Constitution either are, or affect to be, solicitous to avert."
See The Federalist, No. 22, p. 135 (H. Lodge Ed. 1888).
The view was rooted in a general skepticism regarding the fallibility
of human nature later commented on by Joseph Story:
|"Public bodies, like private persons, are occasionally under
the dominion of strong passions and excitements; impatient,
irritable, and impetuous�. If a legislature feels no check but
its own will, it rarely has the firmness to insist upon holding
a question long enough under its own view, to see and mark it
in all its bearings and relations on society."
These observations are consistent with what many of the framers
expressed, none more cogently than Madison in pointing up the need
to divide and disperse power in order to protect liberty:
|"In Republican government, the legislative authority necessarily
predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide
the legislature into different branches; and to render them,
by different modes of action, as little connected with each
other as the nature of their common functions and their common
dependence of the society will permit." See The Federalist,
No. 51, p. 324 (H. Lodge, Ed. 1888). See also The Federalist
In concluding, the legislative steps outlined in Article 1 are
not empty formalities. They were designed to assure that both Houses
of Congress and the President participate in the exercise of law
In the majority's haste to pass H.R. 648 which was pregnant with
an unconstitutional unicameral legislative Crime Control Act, the
98th Congress chose to ignore clearly defined parliamentary procedures,
and Public Law 98-473 was enacted. In light of the circumstances
as set forth, the question remains: Is Public Law 98-473, otherwise
known as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 constitutional
under the bicameral requirements pursuant to Article 1, Section
1 and 7, of the United States Constitution and Rule of Law?
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