WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A decade after the worst terror attack in U.S. history, some critics say Congress is ill-prepared should it come under catastrophic attack.
They worry how the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would regroup should hundreds of lawmakers be wiped out, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Both bodies are required to have a majority of their members present to pass legislation.
"It is dismaying that 10 years later, the only plans we have in place to deal with a devastating terrorist attack on Congress are unrealistic, unconstitutional and/or counterproductive," American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, a leading advocate for more sweeping changes, wrote last month in a commentary in Roll Call.
Senators can be appointed but there is no constitutional provision for appointing House members. Eight years ago, a private group called the Continuity of Government Commission recommended passage of a constitutional amendment to allow temporary appointment of House members in event of a crisis. That proposal didn't pass but lawmakers in 2005 approved a measure providing for expedited special elections if at least 100 House seats became vacant because of "extraordinary circumstances." House rules also were amended to allow the speaker to alter the size of a quorum in an emergency.
But, Ornstein wrote, having elections quickly after a disaster would be "virtually impossible to carry out and would still leave the chamber inoperable for a critical 45 days after a devastating attack." He also said the change in quorum rules could fail to pass unconstitutional muster.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., is among those who think Congress has failed to take adequate preparatory steps, the Post said.
"If you wanted to destroy the American government, you would destroy the House of Representatives and it would be crippled," Lofgren, who backs a constitutional amendment, said last week. "There ought to be a remedy for that so that our enemies couldn't destroy us.
Republicans haven't shown an inclination to do anything more, Lofgren said, "so I'm working on things where there might be a chance something could happen."
Others see the current measures that are in place as adequate.
"Fortunately, we have not been faced with such a dire circumstance, but there are procedures in place if we ever do," Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., told the Post.