Sunday, September 12, 2004

Continuity of Government

Given that we're not actually on a war footing as a society, I often hear people wonder what they could or should be doing.

At the least, there is no excuse for us to not all do our part to ensure the continuity of government.

Imagine an attack that takes out half of Congress. Paralysis and confusion would reign:
An attack on the U.S. Capitol not only could have destroyed a powerful landmark but also would likely have put our national government in jeopardy. “At a time when we would need a Congress most—a time of war—we could have been without a Congress,” says Norman Ornstein, a government scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

How could that happen? Because 1) Congress has very specific rules covering how it can meet, including requiring a majority of members to be present for a quorum. And 2) when there is a vacancy in the House, it can only be filled by a special election, which takes about four months. There is no provision in either the House or Senate to deal with a situation in which numerous members might be incapacitated [from a chemical of biological attack that doesn't actually kill them outright!].
But ensuring that such continuity will automatically take place may even take away the incentive to try to decapitate the government in the first place!

Furthermore, it is vitally important for maintaining public confidence in the legitimacy of the process by having a Constitutional mechanism already in place, rather than making it up on the fly.

This state of affairs is untenable and irresponsible. We must plan for the worst.

The issue has been studied by the bi-partisan Continuity of Government Commission.

Go there and find out about the issues and proposals.

Then contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them their positions on this and ask them why nothing is being done.

What it comes down to is whether vacancies will be filled by temporary governor appointment, or from a list made by the politicians themselves. The former has the advantage of being straightforward and sure to work in a practical manner. The latter latter has the advantage of being nominally more in line with the "will of the people", on the assumption that those chosen by the politicians will be of a similar ideology, which was apparently desired by the voters. But we may find such lists to not be kept up to date, or might lead to unforseen consequences of gamesmanship, patronage, or corruption.

It makes good sense certainly for governors to appoint Senators (as they represent the State as a whole), but yes, it's not exactly in the intended spirit to have such appointments of Representatives. On the other hand, the appointments are temporary just until emergency elections can be organized. My opinion therefore is that the appointment route is the most robustly workable.

Your opinion on what to do may differ from mine.

Make sure your Representatives and Senators know what it is.


Post a Comment

<< Home