The Continuity of Congress: Special Elections in Extraordinary Circumstances

September 24, 2003

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee: Thank you for inviting me to testify on the subject of the continuity of Congress in the aftermath of a catastrophic attack and specifically on H.R. 2844, legislation that requires states to hold special elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives during times of crisis.

I testify today as a student of Congress and the American constitutional system for more than three decades. More specifically and immediately, however, I draw on my work as a senior counselor, along with Norman Ornstein, to the Commission on the Continuity of Government. Administered by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, this bipartisan commission is co-chaired by former Senator Alan Simpson and Lloyd Cutler, White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton. Its members include former House Speakers Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich, former House Minority Leader Robert Michel, and former House members Lynn Martin, Kweisi Mfume and Leon Panetta. Other commissioners have served in high positions in the executive and judicial branches of government: Phillip Bobbitt, Kenneth Duberstein, Charles Fried, Jamie Gorelick, Nicholas Katzenbach, Robert Katzmann (serving on the commission to consider the judiciary only), and Donna Shalala.