Continuity of Government


In: All News   Posted 06/03/2003
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WASHINGTON – The Constitution and laws of the United States, as currently drafted, are inadequate and do not ensure continuity of government in the event of a terrorist attack or catastrophic event. The threat is no longer abstract; rather, it is among the most pressing issues before the Congress. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn praised the release of a report by the joint American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution Continuity of Government Commission on ensuring the continuity of Congress."Nobody relishes the idea of planning for their own demise," Sen. Cornyn said. "But it will be far too late to establish a protocol for continuity after a catastrophe strikes the Capitol building. I appreciate the work of this commission; theirs was a critical and useful undertaking that, hopefully, will be the first step in ensuring the continuity of the institution of Congress." Cornyn, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, will hold hearings later this year to discuss the commission’s findings and the possibility of amending the Constitution to provide a framework for ensuring continuity should a catastrophe strike the government. "It is now increasingly clear that our current system providing for the continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack is completely inadequate in the reality of the post-9/11 world," Cornyn said. "If an attack of such a nature should occur again—this time against the Capitol, Supreme Court or White House—our government and our Constitution would be ill-prepared for the sudden ramifications. That must change." Speaking on the Senate floor in praise of the report Wednesday, Cornyn stressed the need to maintain the strength of the nation by addressing the unthinkable—before, rather than after, a potential strike. "Even as we dedicate ourselves to fighting terror at home and abroad, even as we hope and pray that the tragedies of September 11th will never be repeated, we must always remain conscious of our promise as Senators to serve the people of our states and our nation, and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Through careful study and public hearings, the AEI-Brookings Commission determined that Congress would face constitutional difficulties in the aftermath of an attack if a substantial amount of members were incapacitated. Among other conclusions, the commission determined that a constitutional amendment providing a remedy for the immediate replacement of mass vacancies is the only viable solution to ensure the continuity of the Congress. The commission will release its findings on the continuity of the presidency and the courts at a future date. Sen. Cornyn served previously as the Texas attorney general, and on the state’s Supreme Court.- Text of Senate floor speech follows SENATE FLOOR STATEMENT OF U.S. SEN. JOHN CORNYN THANKING THE CONTINUITY OF GOVERNMENT COMMISSION weDNESDAY JUNE 3, 2003 Mr. President, I rise today to say a few words about the continuity of our nation’s government. Today the Continuity of Government Commission, a joint project of the Brookings Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, is releasing a report to the Congress on this matter. I thank the Commission for their responsible and forthright assessment of needed Constitutional reforms. Their report will be an invaluable addition to this ongoing discussion, and it will provide a sound basis for hearings that I plan to hold in the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution later this year.Mr. President, I was not here in Washington when the attacks came on September 11th. Like so many other Americans, I was at home, in Texas, getting ready to go to work, when I heard the terrible news. But I know that many of my friends and colleagues who were here on that horrific day feel a very personal debt to the heroes of Flight 93.The brave passengers did more than just save the lives of their fellow citizens. Absent their courageous sacrifice, it is likely that Flight 93 would have reached its final destination in this very building – in an attack that could have virtually eliminated an entire branch of our government.Even as we dedicate ourselves to fighting terror, at home and abroad – even as we hope and pray that the tragedies of September 11th will never be repeated – we must always remain conscious of our promise as Senators to serve the people of our states and our nation, and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In the aftermath of the attacks, it is now increasingly clear that our current system providing for the continuity of government in the event of a disaster is inadequate in the reality of the post-9/11 world. If an attack of this nature occurred again, and was even partially successful, our government and our Constitution would be ill prepared for the sudden ramifications.As unthinkable as another attack of that magnitude may be, we in the legislative branch must be ready for the worst. We must provide for the stable continuance of government, despite all possible calamities. We owe it to the American people to ensure that our government remains strong and stable, even in the face of disaster.What the evildoers can never understand is that America cannot be destroyed by weapons, armies, or terrorist attacks. No matter how many weapons they try to make – no matter what secret schemes they concoct – no matter what buildings they destroy – as long as the dream of freedom lives on within our hearts, America endures, a beacon of light shining for all the world to see.The passengers on Flight 93 were everyday Americans, men and women with jobs, with families, with dreams. Like all of us, they made promises to their loved ones before they boarded that plane – promises of vacations, of baseball games, of presents and anniversaries.Some promises aren’t cheap – other promises cost nothing at all – others require that we risk all, even our very lives, to fulfill. The crash site left behind by the heroes of Flight 93, nestled in the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, is filled with memories of the promises they made – and will never keep.That hallowed ground marks their last promise, a promise carried on to the nation, their children, their loved ones left behind – a promise that says freedom will not end here, in the violent acts of evil men. It persists – it endures – and it cannot be destroyed.Our government must not fail the children of Flight 93. This body must not fail them. We must prepare for all contingencies, fulfilling our oaths of office, to ensure that the promise of our free government – a government of laws, not men – shall not perish from the earth.