Resurrecting Congress

Getting started yesterday was tough – extra tough.

I’m not quite sure why. I DID manage to slither out of bed eventually and blearily stumbled around the house yesterday morning in a kind of lethargic panic. As I staggered from room to room, my brain was vainly trying to get itself (and the rest of me) coordinated and conscious. It was still pressing the restart button when the news came on. Headlining the news at the top of the hour were two proposals for a new Constitutional Amendment to ensure that the US government would be resurrected 48 hours after it was destroyed.

If I had snapped awake any faster, I would now be wearing a neck brace. News like that is stronger than black coffee and more shocking than ice water in your shower. 

Why did someone feel the need to create an amendment to the US Constitution that would ensure that the US government could resurrect itself within 48 hours? Why would a senator or a member of congress feel the need to do this?

These questions flew through my mind, roosted in my rafters, and generally made a nuisance of themselves. Quarrelsome birds, these questions are.

Both the House Representatives and the Senate have special access to intelligence information, so they tend to know things. And when they make statements indicating that there is a possibility that they could be sent home to meet their Maker, en masse… Well, it’s eyebrow raising stuff.

But, a Constitutional AMENDMENT??

THAT, my friends, goes beyond raised eyebrows and rushes headlong into hand waving and expletives deleted. Has Congress FINALLY woken to the danger of Iran? Were they rushing around in a lethargic panic, pursued by quarrelsome birds?

Then, this morning, I did some digging. It appears that following the events of 9/11, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institution created a project called the Continuity of Government Commission (aka, COG Commission) project headquartered at the AEI. This commission draws its members from the highest levels of government, from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as from both the House and the Senate.

Apparently, they realized that Flight 93, might have taken out a great deal of the US Congress, and paralyzed the US government – but for the actions of a brave few.

Of course, taking out an institution of government that is as corrupt and ineffectual as the US Congress… Well, you could be forgiven for wondering at how much of a tragedy it really would have been.

Seriously though, the physical destruction of the US Congress would have had terrible repercussions. And, it seems that the US Constitution doesn’t adequately allow for a quick replacement of those senators and congressmen that have been either killed or incapacitated. Under current conditions, such a strike could have neutralized the US government for as much as four years, while constituencies try to elect replacements. That is a serious issue, and it really does need to be addressed.

However, I’m still wondering about the timing. Why now? And, why are they choosing the route of a Constitutional Amendment? Why aren’t other, less drastic measures pursued first?

In just the short amount of time that I have had to research this issue, it appears that the COG Commission advocates a non-democratic means to appoint a new government in the face of such a disaster. I am not even sure that they are even advocating the involvement of elected officials.

I smell the possibility of good motives turned to bad ends. What bothers me is possibility that this new power could be used to limit, or even destroy, the rights of the individual. Worse, in light of such a catastrophe, we would gladly surrender these rights.

Disasters have a way of eating away at rights and privileges. The Great Depression ushered in a greater control over the finances of our grandparents. World War II became a catalyst for changes that still ripple through our society today.

Natural and unnatural disaster inspires central government to take a central, and expanded, role. However, it tends to be reluctant to release power that it has acquired in the process of meeting challenges. And, if you aren’t paying attention, central government will acquire every bit of power that it can lay hands on – at our expense.

Should the US government actually need rebuilding, we need to make sure that the rebuilding process doesn’t find us with fewer rights and fewer protections. We need to make sure that the framers of this new Constitutional Amendment are careful to protect the people that they have sworn to represent. 

The good thing is that the COG Commission proposals are still just that: proposals. I can only hope that my concerns will prove to be groundless, or as my dear grandmother used to say, ‘fuss and feathers’.  

1 thought on “Resurrecting Congress

  1. Hey John,

    Thanks for the information. So far we have not learnt anything about that process in the US at all in Europe! And you are right: It IS scary coming from people who might know that weee lil’ bit more …

    Anyhow I personally wouldn’t overestimate the timin for proecesses like the formulation of such papers take, as we all know, a good part of an eternity. Therefore applying Occam’s razor I wouldn’t be surprised if the timing is just a product of a report finally finished by some think-tank.

    As for the non-democratic-thing I wouldn’t even overestimate that one. It’s true and scary that such a mechanism could be abused pretty easyly but I wouldn’t see it as an actual plan. (To tell the truth I don’t think the Bush-administration needs such a law anymore. They are pretty fine pretending to keep democracy). IMHO there is just no democratic way to restore huge goveernmental institutions in a period of less than 48 hours so as long as there is a mechanism included that makes sure those new e.g. MC get democratically confirmed ASAP or replaced with those elected in their place it still might be a good plan.

    Regards from “felix Austria”

    Magda

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