Cornyn Chairs Judiciary Hearing on Continuity Of Congress

In: All News   Posted 09/09/2003

WASHINGTON – Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress reacted swiftly to enact various critical security measures including moves to bolster national security, stabilize our economy and provide for the victims of the attacks and their families – all absolutely critical actions. Yet two years later, Congress has failed to establish one vital protection: Ensuring that the important institutions of our government will continue to operate on behalf of the American people should another attack occur. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired a hearing of the full Judiciary Committee Tuesday to ensure that Americans will have an operational government in the event of a catastrophe. The hearing, titled Ensuring the Continuity of the United States Government: The Congress, was the first in a series to be chaired by Cornyn. Testimony at the hearing discussed the current inadequacies, as well as the measures necessary to guarantee the ability of Congress to respond. Some of the main concerns include the necessary election for a special election, appointments of members of congress and possible amendments to the Constitution."Our ability to ensure continuity of Congress under the current Constitution is woefully limited.” Chairman Cornyn said. “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 incapacities in either chamber. That must change and today’s hearing is an important step in addressing the weaknesses in the current law.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chairs the Judiciary Committee, but due to the high importance of this issue and Sen. Cornyn’s particular interest and expertise, Chairman Hatch invited Cornyn to chair this and future hearings on the topic in the full Judiciary Committee rather than in the subcommittee on the Constitution."In an age of terrorism and a time of war, few things could be more important than ensuring that the United States government – the nation’s most vital instrument of national security – is failsafe and foolproof, against even the most devious and destructive of terrorist plots,” Cornyn said. “We must begin the process of sending the message to terrorists that there is nothing they can do to stop the American government from securing freedom here and around the globe. Two years is too long, and the time to plan for the unthinkable is now.” Sen. Cornyn will also co-chair a joint hearing next Tuesday, September 16 with the chairman of the Rules Committee, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), on long-needed reforms to the presidential succession statute. Future hearings on the continuity of government are also planned.- Please see below for biographies of the witnesses --Panel I the Honorable Brian Baird, United States Representative [D-Wash.] Congressman Baird has been an active and articulate spokesman for the need to ensure continuity of Congressional operations. Just one month after the attacks of September 11, he introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to provide for emergency interim appointments, in the event that 25 percent or more of the members of the House are unable to carry out their duties because of death or incapacity. Baird’s amendment, H. J. Res. 67, was later joined by 86 co-sponsors. the Honorable David Dreier, United States Representative [R-Calif.] Congressman Dreier is chairman of the House Rules Committee. He is the lead author of H. Con. Res. 190, which is currently pending before the Senate Rules Committee. That resolution would establish a joint House-Senate committee of 20 members to study issues involving continuity of Congressional operations. Congressman Dreier is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 2844, a bill that would require states to hold expedited special elections to fill vacancies in the House no later than 21 days after the vacancy is announced by the Speaker, in the event that there are over 100 vacancies in the House. Panel II Dr. Norman J. Ornstein, Senior Counselor – Continuity of Government Commission Resident Scholar – American Enterprise Institute Washington, DC Dr. Ornstein is a distinguished scholar and expert on Congress and elections, and author of a number of articles and books on those subjects. He is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In the fall of 2002, he helped the launch of the Continuity of Government Commission, and serves as one of its two senior counselors today. He has written extensively on continuity of government issues. Mr. Doug Lewis, Executive Director – The Election Center Houston, TX Mr. Lewis is Executive Director of the Election Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving, and improving democracy, headquartered in Houston, Texas. Its members are government employees whose profession is to serve in voter registration and elections administration. He has testified on election reform issues in both the House and Senate. Mr. Raymond F. DuBois, Director of Administration and Management Office of the Secretary of Defense – Department of Defense Arlington, VA Mr. DuBois is Director of Administration and Management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He oversees, among many other issues and agencies, the Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program. Mr. DuBois has previously served as Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense. In addition, from 1973 to 1977, he served as Staff Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and then as Deputy Under Secretary of the Army, where he was awarded the Civilian Distinguished Service Medal. Mr. DuBois also served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969, including 13 months in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. Mr. Thad Hall, Program Officer – The Century Foundation Washington, DC Mr. Hall is a Program Officer with the Century Foundation. He has extensive experience in federal and state politics, having worked for Georgia Governor Zell Miller and as a policy analyst for the Southern Governors’ Association in Washington, D.C. He holds a Ph. D. in political science from the University of Georgia.