Langevin to House Leaders: Congress Must Prepare for Worst Case Scenario Now

Mar 20, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–At a press conference in Washington today, Congressman Jim Langevin urged the House Leadership to address the issue of congressional continuity in the event of natural disaster, attack or any other situation in which the House of Representatives could not meet in a single location.  Langevin was joined by Congressmen Brian Baird (D-WA) and Chris Cox (R-CA) and former House Speaker Tom Foley.
 Langevin and Baird have circulated a letter among their House colleagues calling on House Speaker Hastert and House Minority Leader Gephardt to address this issue.  To date, 141 Members have agreed to sign the letter.

 “The legislative branch must have an alternative plan in place so that government may continue to work in the aftermath of a catastrophe,” said Congressman Langevin.  “While I hope such a plan would never require implementation, it is necessary that we properly prepare for the new global climate in which we live.”

In their letter to the House Leadership, Congressmen Baird and Langevin call for a panel of House and Senate members to be convened to investigate and report back to Congress within three months on continuity issues, specifically addressing the following: the lack of direction under the U.S. Constitution on how to replace a significant number of members simultaneously incapacitated or killed; problems arising in Presidential succession; and the ability to engage in secure member to member communications, voting and congressional procedures if such a disaster occurred.

Under current law, there is no quick succession plan for Members of Congress.  Vacancies have traditionally been filled by special elections, which can take up to six months depending upon the state.  This system has worked adequately for the relatively few vacancies that have occurred, but it would be impractical in the event of catastrophic loss.

 Last fall, Congressman Langevin introduced “The Ensuring Congressional Security and Continuity Act” (HR 3481), which calls for the investigation of alternatives to conducting Congressional business in and around the United States Capitol.  The legislation would authorize a comprehensive study on the feasibility of implementing a secure off-site voting and communication system for Members of Congress if events force the legislative branch of government to meet without being at a single location.