U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Anthony Brown, both Maryland Democrats, have introduced legislation to secure the U.S. service academy nominations of states and congressional districts that lack representation in Congress due to the death, resignation or removal from office of a sitting member of Congress.
After the death of Elijah Cummings, a Maryland congressman, in 2019, the delegation learned that the congressional district’s allotted service academy openings were revoked, leaving the students with fewer opportunities to seek appointments to a federal service academies.
The proposed legislation, the SERVE Act, would ensure that future students are not denied this opportunity. The lawmakers were joined in introducing the bill by Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and David Trone, all Maryland Democrats.
“Attending one of our federal service academies is an honor and a privilege, and for many students across our state, it is a life-long dream. Securing one of these nominations is highly competitive, and every Maryland student deserves an equal chance to access this opportunity,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “This legislation will help ensure that a Congressional vacancy does not stand in the way of our students achieving their dreams and serving their country.”
Brown said in a statement: “Nominating young women and men to our exemplary military service academies is an important responsibility for members of Congress and one I take very seriously after 30-years of service. Military service is a rewarding career path for young people looking to cultivate leadership, technical and other key skills that will serve them well both in and out of uniform.
“We need to make sure no qualified candidates looking to serve our country go overlooked by creating a process to ensure a consistent number of nominations for state delegations, in the event of a Congressional vacancy. We all share the same mission to educate talented young people interested in service to our country. This legislation would help keep that mission on track.”
Currently, in the case of the death, resignation, or removal from office of a senator or representative, the former senator or representative’s service academy nominations are revoked, reducing the number of available nominations for applicants from that state or district, and placing applicants at a disadvantage relative to their peers in other states or districts.
“This bill makes a simple fix that could make a world of a difference for a student who dreams of attending one of our prestigious military academies,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “It also ensures our academies do not potentially miss out on an excellent candidate because of an archaic rule, as happened after the passing of our dear colleague, Congressman Elijah Cummings.”
Under the Service Education Reallocation for Vacant Elected Offices (SERVE) Act, in the event that a Senate or House seat is vacant, and the swearing-in for the new senator or representative will take place after the deadline to submit nominations to the service academies, the former senator or representative’s nominations would be reallocated to the senators (or remaining senator) from the same state.
In the case of a former representative, the senators from the same state would receive the nomination slots but be required to give those nominations to applicants from the former representative’s district.