Congress, it appears, can at least agree on one thing: The word “lunatic” will be stricken from federal law under legislation that passed the House yesterday and is headed to President Barack Obama for his signature. The congressional action is the latest effort to remove language from the U.S. code that has become outdated or demeaning. Two years ago Congress took out references in federal law to the term “mental retardation.” The legislation cites one instance in banking regulation that refers to the authority of a bank to act as “committee of estates of lunatics” on guardianship issues.
The measure passed in the Senate in May, sponsored by Senators Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. “Federal law should reflect the 21st century understanding of mental illness and disease, and that the continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the U.S. code,” Conrad said.
The measure passed in the House by a 398-1 vote. The lone “no” vote was cast by Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who said in a statement that “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, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”