WASHINGTON – The Constitution (search) should be amended to ensure the quick selection of replacements should many members of Congress be killed or incapacitated by a terrorist attack, a commission recommended Wednesday.
Governors now appoint senators when vacancies arise prior to an election, but the only provision for replacing House members is a special election that can take months to organize. There is concern Congress would be unable to function while waiting for special elections for a large number of House members.
The bipartisan panel of scholars and former government officials including House Speakers Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Tom Foley, D-Wash., said Congress should amend the Constitution to allow for temporary appointments after an attack.
The commission said governors should appoint the replacements, sending people of their choice or picking from a list of candidates that individual House members compile.
"We know the violence that was done on September 11 and we know the bullet, literally, that we dodged on Capitol Hill," said Norman Ornstein, a senior counselor to the commission and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (search).
He said the panel came to a unanimous decision on the need for an amendment.
The Continuity of Government Commission (search), formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, is a joint project of two Washington think tanks, the conservative American Enterprise Institute and more liberal Brookings Institution.
The commission is co-chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo, and former presidential adviser Lloyd Cutler. Members include former White House chiefs of staff Leon Panetta and Ken Duberstein, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.