Where will we get the Congresscritters?
February 5, 2004 8:18 PM   Subscribe

The Quorum After Ricin, anthrax, plane crashing into the Capital--there've been several serious threats to our Congresspeople in the last couple of years and, despite having a couple of bills introduced to rectify the matter, we still have no program in place to manage an emergency that deprives us of a quorum. Norman Ornstein explains (and though link is NYT, no babies required as payment). I know, I know, but it really does matter.
posted by billsaysthis (16 comments total)
Not a big deal.

If there are a bunch dead, all that the House and Senate have to do is interpret the "majority" required for a quorum to exclude dead people, so they'd only need 111 of the 220 left, or whatever.

If a bunch are sick, all the chamber has to do is avoid taking official notice of the fact that there's no quorum, which mostly means not overly pissing off members of the minority. You can't shout down from the galleries that there's no quorum -- there's a quorum unless and until a member doubts the presence of a quorum, and a quorum is not found. You probably couldn't use this to get controversial legislation unrelated to whatever the crisis was passed, since then someone would have every incentive to notice the absence of a quorum, but it could easily suffice for legislation that's actually relevant to the emergency and that's not stupidly one-sided.

Certainly there's no pressing reason to go monkeying with the principle that there's only one way to become a member of the US House, and that's being elected by the people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:14 PM on February 5, 2004

Didn't Clancy already explore this scenario?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:32 PM on February 5, 2004

Oh well, this thing called the "Constitution" is just a minor technicality that is regularly dismissed by all branches of the government anyway. =]

Even now, I think the consensus is "to hell with the constitution, we'll do whatever we want now and let the courts sort it out later", so I don't think the government will be paralyzed in any real emergency.
posted by VeGiTo at 9:35 PM on February 5, 2004

Color me the suspicious sort, but the Republicans were talking about rewriting the rules so filibusters would be harder- among other things. This seems like a subtle way of accomplishing that.
posted by drezdn at 10:03 PM on February 5, 2004

"I want the American people to know that they still have two out of three branches of the government working for them. And that ain't bad."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:10 PM on February 5, 2004

A decapitation attack against the legislative branch would be met with a massive expansion of the executive branch, with most legislation replaced by executive order (the limits of which do not seem to have been established).

A decapitation attack against the executive branch is constitutionally met by the ascension of members of congress, with that long line of ascension and whatnot. Expect similar use of executive orders.

A decapitation attack against both branches leads to martial law...and more of those orders.

Bottom line, this has been thought of; the silence is because nobody wants to really consider the effects of a temporary suspension of democracy.
posted by effugas at 11:48 PM on February 5, 2004

"the silence is because nobody wants to really consider the effects of a temporary suspension of democracy"

I think we already know.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:22 AM on February 6, 2004

Rush Limbaugh's been yapping, lately, about how the Democrats couldn't have prevented 9-11 if they had held the White House. [ a bit off topic, but related ]
posted by troutfishing at 6:53 AM on February 6, 2004

There was a good discussion of this in The Atlantic Monthly last year.
posted by TedW at 7:09 AM on February 6, 2004

are you people under the impression that we live in a democracy?
grow up.

plane crashing into the Capital

when THE FUCK did this happen billysaysthis....
posted by clavdivs at 7:14 AM on February 6, 2004

such a decapitation would be a short term hassle but also a long term houseclaning.
It would take a long while for special interestes to re-cultivate their influence.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:20 AM on February 6, 2004

It would take a long while for special interestes to re-cultivate their influence.

that is comedy sir.
posted by clavdivs at 7:27 AM on February 6, 2004

It's not like our government actually needs new legislation to be continuously produced to operate! Besides this a plane crash into the Capitol would be a symbolic attack more than a mass murder of congresscreeps, unless it was timed for a joint session or some such. How many actual congresspeople are actually in the Capitol building at any given time anyway? Most of them, if they are even in DC are in their offices... in separate buildings. Sorry to sound crass but then, on top of being in the building, they'd have to be in the part that the plane actually hit, its not like a 110 story tower that is going to collapse down on them, its a very wide and flat building in general and a plane hitting the House would little effect (instantly) the Senate side or vice versa, just as despite the great loss of life at the impact site on the Pentagon, the 4 facets of the building that were not impacted saw very little loss of life.

I don't want to downplay the way that such an event would devastate the people and it probably would kill me personally, but the likelihood of a constitutional crisis is next to nothing. We could lose every single Member at once and the government would continue to operate just fine until we replaced them.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:16 AM on February 6, 2004

clavdivs, most speculation is that the Capital was the target of Flight 11 on that sad day, that's where.
posted by billsaysthis at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2004

oh, so there was no
plane crashing into the Capital

you should have googled CAPBOM.
if you had any idea what your talking about
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2004

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