What If Terrorists Wipe out Congress?

USA TODAY, April 2004 | Go to article overview
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What If Terrorists Wipe out Congress?


Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, just about every aspect of national security has been debated, but very few of them have implications that could shake the core of the country's legal underpinnings--the Constitution. One such issue is maintaining the continuity of the government in the event a cataclysmic attack destroys Congress. The Senate quickly can be reconstituted via the 17th Amendment, but filling House of Representatives vacancies requires special elections that are called based on a hodgepodge of state laws that prescribe widely different time frames and methods for choosing successors.

"Restoring the U.S. House of Representatives: A Skeptical Look at Current Proposals" by Ronald Keith Gaddie, professor of political science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, sheds light on the benefits and disadvantages of several proposed solutions: a constitutional amendment, a purely legislative change, or merely keeping the status quo.

The House of Representatives, points out Gaddie, takes pride in the fact that "no member has ever served who was not chosen through a popular election." Several current proposals would call upon state governors to appoint members, which would compromise the democratic character of the House, and also would confer the advantages of incumbency to the appointees without having to gain initial voter approval.

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