NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Plans for Congressional Continuity in Event of Catastrophe

June 4, 2003

Members of the House are mulling how that body would reconstitute itself and operate following a terrorist attack that might leave many of its members dead or incapacitated. The Continuity of Government Commission, a project of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and liberal Brookings Institution, releases a report today, and congressional hearings are planned.

  • The independent commission wants Congress to pass a constitutional amendment allowing the swift replacement of large numbers of members who might fall victim to terrorism.
  • Although states would likely ratify a constitutional amendment to keep government operating, some current members are loathe to have unelected "representatives" sit in "the peoples' house."
  • At present, vacancies in the House must be filled by special election -- which would be time-consuming just when America was under attack.
  • Reformers would empower state governors to make temporary appointments, or allow sitting member to designate their own replacements.

Political observers say quick action is unlikely soon. The betting is that the entire matter may be bucked to yet another House-Senate panel, even though some scholars warn that the need to address this issue is urgent.

Source: Andrea Stone, "Panel Urges Congressional Catastrophe Plan," USA Today, June 4, 2003.


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