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The Continuity of Government Commission
by Sartre
4 July 2003

The first report of the Continuity of Government Commission has been made public.  It raises the question, should our representatives have to face the inconvenience of running for office?

The Thinker



Nothing is more revolting than the majority; for it consists of few vigorous predecessors, of knaves who accommodate themselves, of weak people who assimilate themselves, and the mass that toddles after them without knowing in the least what it wants.
 -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


It is amazing that so many citizens are eager to espouse the virtues of democracy. Multitudes of Americans love their government, no matter what it does or where it goes; the State is their mistress. Trusting in the institutions of the federal government is an article of faith' democracy protects the public, voting selects the representatives. Are you a ‘true believer’ in the system that serves the populace? Or are you one of those awful cynics that knock the good intentions of the inner circle that brings freedom and justice to the little folks?  Surely you count yourself among the chorus of the cheering crowd! Now you have your fondest dream -- coming soon -- to safeguard the protector of the people. It’s focus is on preserving Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court and comes from “The Continuity of Government Commission.”

The commission is an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Brookings Institution project headquartered at AEI. It is funded by the Carnegie, Hewlett, Packard, and MacArthur foundations. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford are the honorary co-chairs of the commission and Lloyd Cutler and Alan Simpson are the chairmen. The commission includes members who have served in government at the highest levels.

Their first report is now available.  Here are some of their proposals:

Rep. Brian Baird H.J. Res 67- a constitutional amendment to give governors the power to make temporary appointments to the House of Representatives if more than 25% of the members have been killed or incapacitated.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren H.J. Res. 77 - a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to make provisions for temporary appointments of members if 30% of the seats are vacant.

Sen. Arlen Specter S.J. Res. 30 - a constitutional amendment to give governors the power to make temporary appointments to the House of Representatives if more than 50% of the members have been killed or incapacitated. Temporary members shall be of the same party as the member who previously occupied the seat.

Norman Ornstein Proposal - a constitutional amendment to give governors the power to make temporary appointments when a majority of the state congressional delegations have been significantly diminished. Temporary appointments can be made to fill the seat of temporarily incapacitated members, but once a member recovers his or her original seat is reclaimed.

Michael Davidson Proposal - a constitutional amendment to give governors the power to make temporary appointments to fill all vacancies.

Michael Glennon Proposal - a constitutional amendment to give the power to Congress to devise a legislative solution to the problem of mass vacancies.

Rep. Brad Sherman H.R. 3816 - an amendment to the presidential succession act allowing the president to designate either the Speaker of the House or the House Majority Leader as third in the line of succession and either the Senate Majority or Minority Leader as fourth in the line of succession.

Rep. Jim Langevin H.R. 3481 - a proposal to direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to study the feasibility of remote voting and communication among members of Congress.

Alton Frye Proposal - a proposal to allow for members of the House of Representatives to designate their own temporary successors in advance to provide for the case of mass vacancies.

Don Wolfensberger Proposal - a proposal to expedite special elections in the case of mass vacancies and to allow incapacitated members to take temporary leaves of absence.

If you are one of those types that hesitate to amend the constitution, then Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus at Notre Dame Law School might raise the relevant question: “The Patriot Act was enacted by the full House and Senate after 9/11. That act is a subject of debate and concern as a dubious and hasty response to that crisis. If both elected chambers of Congress can produce such a questionable law, why would it make sense to nail into the Constitution a potential warrant to empower a Congress, dominated by unelected appointees, to enact whatever it sees as an appropriate response to such a crisis?”

He continues:  “Without a single exception, every person who has ever served as a member of the House of Representatives has been elected to that office by the people of his district. This is a non-negotiable point.” Then he cites in The Federalist, No: 52, James Madison - “The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.”

The devil is always in the details; moreover, the Moloch to whom your Liberty is scarified habitually is the bureaucracy. The COGC is a feeble attempt to cloak the appearance of legitimacy when the functions of martial law without the mien of a “goose-step” parade, are actually performed by executive administration. If Madison’s prerequisite for a republican government is indispensable, why continue with the illusion that his constitution still rules the rulers.

Intelligent observers of representative democracy comprehend that voting has been reduced to selecting between tweedle-dumb or tweedle-dee. So it does not come as a surprise that politicos would want to avoid the inconvenience of running for office. They already pass legislation to perpetuate their power, so why not take the next logical progression and march directly to a permanent seat?

The mindset that allows for serious consideration of the COGC reasoning is typical of the national surrender to phantom dangers. Let’s just suppose that the unthinkable (or is that the sanguine) happened and during the State of the Union - the assembly evaporated! Would anyone believe that the federal government would disappear? If anything, it would operate on a scale that it has invariably aspired to achieve for decades. The management of society, by an unaccountable bureaucracy, is the norm for centralized planning. Hardly the form of a Republic, empowered by the consent of free citizens. Apathy should not be confused with approval. However; today, most of the public prefers to abandon sensible self interest and acquiesce to political manipulation.

Rep. Ron Paul is dead on: “Let's face it: we can scare people and doom-say anytime we wish, but it would only be in the case of a near-complete annihilation that our government would fail to function. In such an instance there is no “system'' that will preserve our government. On the other hand, if we surrender the right to elect people to the U.S. House of Representatives under any circumstances, we will be on a slippery slope away from the few remaining vestiges and most precious principles of the government left to us by our founders”.

Skeptics of federal government wisdom should adopt cynicism in their motives. The COGC is the latest threat, intent to remove the final roadblock - the voice of the voter.


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