:: Tuesday, September 09, 2003 ::
Over on the OpinionJournal, John Cornyn asks what we should do in the event of a terrorist strike against memebers of congress. The Constitution requires a majority of senators and/or representative to be present for a vote. Specifically a quorum, consisting of a majority of the whole number. He, along with others, suggests that a constitutional ammendment to allow for the continued operation of both houses of Congress in the event that, due to death or injury, a majority could not be assembled.
While I am not opposed to the idea in principle, I need to see the proposed wording before I can pass judgement on this. Senator Cornyn(R-Texas) envisions something similar to the 25th ammendment, and I agree with his logic, but we must be very careful to avoid enacting anything that would lend itself to broader interpretation.
Our ability to ensure Congress would be able to continue to function under the current constitutional restrictions is woefully limited. States have power to allow their governors to appoint senators in cases of vacancies, and 48 states have elected to do so. But the Constitution provides no immediate mechanism for filling vacancies in the House, nor for redressing the problem of large numbers of members in either chamber being incapacitated.
Vacancies in the House can be filled only by special election. That takes months to conduct, for reasons of mechanical feasibility, democratic integrity, and the rights of military and other absentee voters.
What's more, it is impossible to address the problem of incapacitated members. If 50 senators were in the hospital and unable either to perform their duties or resign, they could not be replaced. The Senate could be unable to operate for up to four years.
Accordingly, the Continuity of Government Commission, a bipartisan panel of former congressional leaders and government officials from across the political spectrum, unanimously endorsed a constitutional amendment to fix this problem in cases of catastrophic attack. Just as the 25th Amendment ensures continuity of the presidency, the proposed amendment would ensure continued congressional operations.
:: Mark 11:53 AM [+] ::