Langevin Meets with House Leaders to Push eCongress Proposal

May 16, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today met with a bipartisan group of House leaders on the issue of congressional continuity to push his eCongress proposal, which seeks to ensure the continuity of congressional business in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist strike on Washington, D.C.  

This meeting is the result of a bipartisan letter co-signed by more than 200 members to Speaker Hastert that was initiated by Congressmen Langevin and Brian Baird (D-WA) last month.  It is the first time that this group of members has held an open dialogue on the constitutional and statutory problems that would face Congress in the event of a catastrophe.

Langevin has introduced HR 3481, “The Ensuring Congressional Security and Continuity Act,” which calls for the investigation of alternatives to conducting Congressional business in and around the United States Capitol.

“The business of the nation’s legislature should never again be disrupted,” said Congressman Langevin.  “Clearly, the United States is vulnerable to terrorist attack, and we must have the mechanisms in place to ensure congressional business is uninterrupted should the capital city come under attack.  While I hope such a plan would never need to be put into action, we must prepare for any contingency as the United States continues to wage war on global terrorism while safeguarding our citizens at home.”

Specifically, Langevin envisions that in the event a quorum of Congress could not be present in a single location to conduct congressional business, members could instead utilize an Internet- and satellite-based communications system.  A member could log on with secure, biometrics technology from anywhere in the world to acknowledge that he or she is not incapacitated and provide his or her physical location.  This system would also provide members with critical information on pending government business and response to the attack or disaster.

Langevin believes a viable emergency plan must also establish alternate meeting locations, a means of deliberating and a way for the general public to follow congressional business, and ensure that Congress follows the democratic process.

 Langevin's 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.  The Ensuring Congressional Security and Continuity Act (HR 3481) also requires an assessment of how Congress can ensure business continuity in circumstances where members and their staffs cannot access their offices in Washington, D.C. 

 Earlier this month, Langevin testified before the House Administration Committee, where his proposal gained additional support among both Republicans and Democrats.  He has worked closely on this issue with Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney and Ranking Member Steny Hoyer.