Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 11, 2009

COG Commission — “What If Catastrophe Hits our House?”

Filed under: Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security,Legal Issues — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on September 11, 2009

CQ’s Rob Margetta posted a story last night, “Panel Worries Congress Isn’t Ready for Worst,” that reminds us of the “what ifs” of 9/11 – what if the Capitol and White House had been successfully hit?  What if that or another event was so catastrophic that it caused mass casualties among our political leadership? What if there were few to none left in Congress to legislate after such an event?

Margetta  profiles the Continuity of Government Commission, formed in 2003, by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institute, which has  “pushed for years for a constitutional amendment that would allow emergency interim appointments to replace members of Congress who are casualties of a catastrophic emergency.”

The Commission, co-chaired by former Senators Alan Simpson and David Pryor, issued its second report earlier this summer, which concluded that our nation’s current legal and constitutional framework is not well-suited for resisting a catastrophic attack on our nation’s Capitol.  As Margetta notes, the Commission gathered “in a largely empty conference room” this week to continue it push “for a constitutional amendment that would allow emergency interim appointments to replace members of Congress who are casualties of a catastrophic emergency.”

Currently, existing law does not readily allow such action as the Constitution provides that governors whose states have Congressional vacancies shall call for elections to fill such vacancies or, in the case of the Senate, may temporarily appoint persons, if state law allows.   Under this provision, House Members cannot be appointed, even temporarily.  As a result, in the event of a catastrophe, some states that have longer time-frames for calling and hold elections, could be left without representation.

To be fair, Congress has taken some action to deal with catastrophic circumstances debilitating its bodies. House Rule XX contains a requirement that if the “House shall be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances,” then quorum shall be determined based upon the provisional number of the House.  This “provisional number” shall be the number of Members who are able to respond.

That said, while the House may be “operational” in the very basic sense of the word, its legitimacy and functionality could easily be called into question, especially if controversial measures are undertaken.  AEI’s Norm Ornstein, who played a critical role in putting together the Commission, has written extensively on this issue.  As he noted in Roll Call column on October 4, 2001 in an article entitled, “What If Congress Were Obliterated? Good Question:

Even if it could convene, for Congress to operate under those circumstances for long–passing sweeping anti-terrorist laws, emergency appropriations and economic recovery measures–would tax its legitimacy, particularly if there were much greater partisan and regional differences among the surviving (and ambulatory) lawmakers than existed in the full House.

Imagine the uproar if the USA Patriot Act were passed today with 15 votes.  What if economic recovery funding were determined by a handful of Members concentrated in one region?

A handful of proposals have floated around since 9/11 to overcome these potential issues. Most of these were last seriously considered in 2003.  The House, after rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment,  actually approved legislation (H.R. 2844) that would require states to hold special elections within 45 days after the announcement of vacancies resulting from a catastrophe.  The Senate, however, did not take up the House bill or move any of the bills introduced in the Senate on the issue.

Eight years after 9/11, we’ve failed to address effectively one of the most devastating gaps in our nation’s security.  There is no question it is a wonkish and inside the beltway issue to many, especially when compared with first responder funding, security at our airports, and threats to our computer networks.   It is, however, one of the most local issues out there on the homeland front, as residents of almost every district of the House would not want to be without their voice should an incident occur.

Our nation has been fortunate enough (or prepared, depending on who you ask) to have not been successfully attacked again.  It would serve the U.S. government and citizens well for there to be renewed dialogue on the issues that the Commission is calling to be addressed.

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 12, 2009 @ 6:47 am

Hey like teenagers thinking they are invinicible the MEMBERS OF CONGRESS think they will live and be re-elected forever.

There could be no clearer sign that most members are almost incompetent to run the legislative portion of the Ship of State. Unfortunately, that incompetence matched in the other two branches. Years of electing those who look and act like US has resulted in destruction of the future of our democracy (republic)! President Andrew Jackson is reputed to have stated “It is not the job of government to make men rich!” I agree with that statement but clearly many do not and in fact they may be in the majority. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people could easily vanish from this earth. I was nine when Puerto Rican terrorists directly attacked Congress but of course that is now the most unlikely kind of attack.

Comment by christopher tingus

September 12, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

Unfortunately for some serving in government positions, their pledge in commitment to not only uphold the Constitution of the United States and local State Constitutions but serve the majority interests of this beloved nation are quickly dismissed and replaced with arrogant self-agenda.

We are a nation in peril. Our system of government has already failed as depicted by exploding deficits and lack of any real transparency.

The world and mankind has always been corrupt, evil with malicious intent in dastardly deeds undertaken to crush the individual of even the least bid of hope. Such despapir by so many as the Senators walk with such superiority only to have such power by those who have “entrusted” them by precious vote, a vote which may not be cast the next election!

We here on Main Street USA are weary. we are not only “Homeland Security Vigilantes” as I refer to the many who no longer trust domestic government any more than AQ and governments no matter their form today aspiring in their ambitions to control the individual having no interest in encouraging creativeness, innovation and openness in expression!

Dictate to the populace is far better than sensitively listening and enacting statute assuring the Rights of the indivdiual of the constituency….

Every man-made government since Babylon no matter what form has failed. Mankind continues to rape the apple tree to the extent that nothing remains for anyone else….

You, Mr. President were nothing more than a community organizer on the streets of Chicago and a junior Senator and within months of your election with promises you have already broken, you had travelled twice around the world intentionally placing distance between youself and even one stop over in Israel, our foremost ally in the Middle East, but knowing how to make a speech to Muslims from Cairo leaving good reason for so many to be so truly apprehensive as to your narrow-minded agenda. You, Sir, will see Egypt where you and I have walked its streets just as I have been Blessed to walk the streets throughout Israel and Palestine…you will see the stability of Egypt so weakened, it will also fall prey to those whose agenda seeks not individual freedoms, lipstick on women as a good example, but rather blood stained clothes on anyone who dares to question fundamentalist tyranny…

How proud we were throughout the country of the South Carolina Congressman who took the smug Pelosi smile off her face as she sat behind you when he spoke out during your recent speech promoting your costly governmemt healthcare bureaucratic dictate which more than 80% of Americans, hard working citizens cleatly state, we want government out of our business.

“We are tired of the fees and taxes, the fees and taxes for we left the King of England for just the same reason” people are no longer whispering, but screaming out in unemployment lines now nearly 10%!

Spend amd tax w/no transparency as evidenced by Hank Paulson’s initial $750billion unaccounted for while for example a government body such as the Massachusetts State Legislature adopted statute affords the MA/Department of Revenue the empowerment of directing the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to strip one’s license to operate a motor vehicle/a driver’s license for an income tax related issue only subjecting an individual to his / her inability to drive to work to earn a living to pay his /her obligation while lien on bank account, levy of property/home and even seeking court order to “garnish” one wages as reasonable remedy in the law available to even those who owe back child payments, but without due process and taking their Rights to earn a living as an automobile is a “necessity” one’s mode of transportation in the 21st century for if it were not, our roadways would not be bumper to bumper as an individual in most cases requires his /her vehicle to enable one to get to work to earn a living to take care of self and family, to help spouse, to help pay child support, etc. No citizen should be so punished.

I use this example and there are of course others, however let’s not make those who have been “entrusted” by vote in their pledge to public service as – Kennedy icons – for many of these good ‘ol beltway boys are obviously in office far too long with “term limits” for both State and Washington “insiders” a necessity for just like the Massachusetts Legislature that adopts an addition Section 23 of Chapter 182 of Section 47B of Chapter 62C of Massachusetts General Laws allowing such abusive treatment contrary first to the Constitution that such laws be enacted with due process never mind the fact that such statute and action to “suspend” one’s right to operate a motor vehicle for any income tax related issue is not even reasonable for most must get to work to earn a living and his /her “mode of transportation” allowed by anyone filing bankruptcy…well…one should feel quite Blessed not living here in Taxachusetts where the same Legislators are fouund drunk driving and other actual RMV infractions and they still drive to work to depict their stupidity or maybe their lust for empowerment of the powerless….

Do not look to Massachusetts and its public healthcare plan and skyrocketing costs with everyone joining the system and MassHealth’s costs skyrocketing…Do not look to government to solve much of any of the problems which truly threaten our way of Life here in America for those with their suits and briefcases with even you Mr. President when asked, silent in reply for you and your family will not give up your helathcare perks and while you can subject the people to laws whisking away Civil Rights/Human Rights, placing this beloved nation, a beacon of hope to so many who line up each and every morning in front of embassies waiting to file their proper “docs” to secure visa and apply for citizenship waiting nearly two and three years while Mexicans are snuggled into vans, digging tunnels, or just walking over the border….

Our security lies with the good people, neighbors, friendd and families as food pantries are filled each morning w/donation not from the Senators and Congress folks who for the most part do not even know what a gallon of milk costs….

….it is becoming quite apparent that if Paul Revere knew what would become – reality as it is today – for so, so many here on Main Street USA in America with such a void in leadership which prefers walking the streets of Argentina w/mistress in hand leaving the good people of South Carolina without any constitutional leadership as a good example and so many other examples, but let’s condemn the South Carolina Congressman who stood tall in chambers Mr. President and spoke what many only whisper of you and your administration and the administration of those before you…for we have trillions in deficit and the number grows daily and the memories of George Bush long gone….

Oh..as I stand in silent protest whether at Somerville High School with 2,000+ lined up waiting to make comments to John Kerry and local officials, standing tall with sign of protest on the steps of the Boston State House, at the Sharon Town Hall where the illustrious Barney Frank is heckled for he believes he knows better when it is not the safety of the “elected” we are so concerned about for these gentlemen are very much part of the problem, but it is the safety of family, children, loved ones, neighbors, friends that WE are concerned about for the public servant who has turned cheek to us and now merely politician has transitioned a people who fled the King and his taxes and fees, taxes and fees seeking Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to individuals who….

….are running to secure a license to carry for fear of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and even you, Mr. President, a person who obviously thinks sitting at a table for a beer will remedy the fact that a Harvard Professor can rant and rave and you can make quick unsubstantiated comment on behalf of a friend. I understand that while the nation believes all forgiven over a beer, now a comission is being assembled to investigate the Cambridge Police and Officer’s response and mannerisms…

….com’on Pres, it is your responsibility to unite rather than divide and your “election” while still shrouded for some in questionable citizenship documentation portrayed a nation which has moved far past the racist issues and while we applaud those public servants who truly safeguard us night and day from those who seek our demise, the lack of ethics, the abusive power towards citizen as evidenced by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue empowered by Massachusetts State Legislature to “suspend” people’s right to drive a car to earn a living, drive to the grocery store to buy food, to be able to get to the pharmacy to pick up meds for income tax issue whether in Appeal or just simply owe back taxes – hey, look at the Treasurer and others we should be sop concerned with…his license to drive to the capital to confer with you each morning and for him to earn his paycheck was not “suspended” –

Let’s agree that we Love America, we willingly die for America and give our most precious on foreign soil to sustain the principles laid down by our forefathers, the Massachusetts Constitution which clearly states that a citizen will not be subjected to undue punishment and a due process will be adhered to….

The concern for the safety of public officials is obviously more here on Main Street USA is obviously more than the “entrusted” Massachusetts State Legislature and the MA/DOR and RMV for citizens who need to get to work to earn a living, help spouse with children, drive the kids here and there and when the MA/DOR is asked about licenses so maliciously “suspended” by such empowerment of even those in Appeal of income taxes, taxes which may or may not be owed, but of folks who have fallen behind in child payments and need a “mode of transportation” to even get a job and help out even with babysitting, mayeb asking whether we worry about the safety of public officials and the deficit ridden governments, locally, state and nationally is much to ask of us for we now see “inflation” ahead, a downward spiral of the dollar’s value, a stockmarket poised to slide to oblivion only to weaken our economy so much that we continue to become impoverished and enslaved to bigger and bigger bureacracy of government much like the near future reduction to only a ten (10) nation German-led EU which each EU state enslaved to Germany and the world slow to realize that the nemsis to the nuclear armed “Brutes of Tehran” will also be our nemesis as it plays NATO and us as fools as it attains its ambitions to become the Middle East power broker seeking oil to lubricate the German wheels of manufacturing so crucial to the renewed euro currency….

Again, it is not the government officials we worry so, but more the nearly seven (7) billion souls which God has created and subjected to such harshness and brutality.

If it were not for the DoD and the folks at the NSA and other agencies making every effort to protect us against the realities of cyber attack and from those who seek our extermination, we would be very worried, however these individuals truly committed to our National Heritage and Preservation are our real heros as are our first responders who help us daily when we make our desperate 911 call for help….No politicians arrive, only good men and women, not highly paid, but committed to assuring public safety and it is these people we pray for each day!

Christopher Tingus
64 Whidah Drive
Harwich, MA 02645 USA
chris.tingus@gmail.com

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