House votes to remove word ‘lunatic’ from federal law

Screen shot of House "Lunatic" vote from C-SPAN
Screen shot of House “Lunatic” vote from C-SPAN

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives followed a previous Senate vote in removing the word “lunatic” from federal law. The vote was 398 to one.

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert cast the sole “nay” vote.

“Not only should we not eliminate the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy,” Gohmert said in an e-mailed statement. “We should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”

Speaking in support of the legislation on the House floor, Democrat Bobby Scott argued, “The term ‘lunatic’ holds a place in antiquity and should no longer have a prominent place in our U.S. code.”

The bill was drafted to target 65-year old language reading, “The words ‘insane’ and ‘insane person’ and ‘lunatic’ shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis.”

In a statement made last April, U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. advised that making the change would eliminate “references that contribute to the stigmatization of mental health conditions.” Conrad is the bill’s sponsor.

After the House vote, Washington D.C. journalist John Eggerton tweeted, “(As ‘fiscal cliff’ nears), striking use of “lunatic” in U.S. law is last scheduled House vote, says #C-SPAN. No further comment needed.”

Congress left the words “insane” and “idiot” alone.

Read more at Bloomberg.com.

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