Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/19/2002 08:05 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 31-POWERS OF US SEN/EMERGENCY APPOINTMENTS                                                                                
Number 2152                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL announced  the next order of  business, HOUSE JOINT                                                               
RESOLUTION  NO.  31, Relating  to  requesting  the United  States                                                               
Congress  to propose  an  amendment to  the  Constitution of  the                                                               
United States  that would address  emergency appointments  to and                                                               
powers of  the United States  Senate.  [Before the  committee was                                                               
CSHJR 31(MLV).]                                                                                                                 
Number 2137                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT  OGAN, Alaska State Legislature,  as sponsor                                                               
of HJR 31,  referred to terrorist attacks of  September 11, 2001,                                                               
and  [the sending  of anthrax  through the  mails by  unspecified                                                               
terrorists];  the latter  could have  killed a  majority of  U.S.                                                               
congressional members.  He said  those events raised his level of                                                               
concern  regarding   the  issue.     Representative   Ogan  said,                                                               
essentially, if the  nation were to lose a majority  of the House                                                               
or the  Senate, it would be  left with martial law  and the power                                                               
held be the  executive [branch], until another  Congress could be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN  noted that the Seventeenth  Amendment of the                                                               
U.S. Constitution  "provides a  modality for  making appointments                                                               
to the Senate," but sets no  limit of time.  That amendment gives                                                               
some  latitude to  the governors  and laws  of individual  states                                                               
regarding  how  [those Senators]  are  appointed,  but is  silent                                                               
regarding [how  the House  would be  reappointed].   He explained                                                               
that  the Seventeenth  Amendment  was envisioned  to prepare  for                                                               
events such  as the assassination or  death of a Senator,  not to                                                               
prepare for "the unthinkable."                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN surmised that most  of those in the committee                                                               
room grew  up during the Cold  War and the Cuban  Missile Crisis,                                                               
when the general philosophy was  that there would be nothing left                                                               
to govern after a nuclear war;  therefore, the issue had not been                                                               
addressed  in  the  [U.S.]  Constitution.    He  stated  that  he                                                               
believes  now that  terrorists have  access to  "weapons of  mass                                                               
destruction."  It  is imperative that [the  nation] makes certain                                                               
that all  three branches of  its government continue  to function                                                               
and  sends a  message  to terrorists  that what  they  do to  the                                                               
nation will not bring the Republic down.                                                                                        
Number 1959                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  referred  to  an earlier  version  [of  the                                                               
resolution] in  which the [U.S.] Senate  would temporarily assume                                                               
the power  of a unicameral body  until a House could  be elected.                                                               
He explained  that the  House Special  Committee on  Military and                                                               
Veterans'  Affairs  had  deleted   that  language  after  lengthy                                                               
debate.  Representative  Ogan told the committee that  there is a                                                               
bill  in the  U.S. House  that says  if two-thirds  of the  House                                                               
members  are  incapacitated,  the  states  would  be  allowed  to                                                               
appoint House members; he said that  is a large number to appoint                                                               
and suggested  it would be better  to allow the [U.S.]  Senate to                                                               
become  a  temporary unicameral  body  until  a special  election                                                               
could be held.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN [suggested he was  amenable to changes in the                                                               
language of  his resolution];  his main concern  was to  see that                                                               
the issue was brought before Congress.                                                                                          
Number 1839                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  COGHILL referred  to  [page  one of  a  December 25,  2001                                                               
article in  The New York  Times, provided by  Representative Ogan                                                             
and included in the committee  packet], which says President Bush                                                               
signed executive  orders to establish  a line of succession.   He                                                               
asked if that  was parallel to Representative  Ogan's thinking or                                                               
conformed to the bill before Congress.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN  said he  believed President  Bush recognized                                                               
the  threat to  the nation;  Vice  President Cheney  is only  now                                                               
coming  out  from  a  sequestered  state.    Representative  Ogan                                                               
clarified  that  [HJR  31] deals  with  the  legislative  branch,                                                               
rather than the executive branch.                                                                                               
CHAIR  COGHILL asked  Representative  Ogan why  he'd singled  out                                                               
Congress,  when  there are  three  branches  of government.    He                                                               
indicated Congress would  [be the one with the  power to] declare                                                               
war.   He added that there  are "several major heads"  that could                                                               
be in the executive branch.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN responded that  even though he is comfortable                                                               
with  the  motives  of  [President  Bush],  "power  corrupts  and                                                               
absolute power  corrupts absolutely."   He said he would  like to                                                               
see  a plan  in place  so that  the legislative  branch would  be                                                               
reappointed  quickly.   The  power  to declare  war  is with  the                                                               
Senate.  If [the nation loses  a majority of its Senate members],                                                               
he said, the country would be run by martial law at that point.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  posited that  the  President  has the  best                                                               
interests of  the country in  mind, but  said he would  prefer to                                                               
make certain that the third  branch of government would be around                                                               
to appropriate  the money to  do whatever is necessary  to defend                                                               
the country and  to provide the checks and  balances provided for                                                               
in  the [U.S.]  Constitution -  having  the power  come from  the                                                               
Number 1674                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL said Representative  Ogan's last remark brought the                                                               
discussion closer  to a point  he was  attempting to make:   This                                                               
[system of appointment] would perhaps  be the most representative                                                               
of  the people;  furthermore, the  executive branch  could become                                                               
very powerful, with police powers, and would need the check.                                                                    
Number 1654                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  said he  appreciated the chance  to think                                                               
about  how  the succession  works  in  government.   He  said  he                                                               
believes the succession of the  presidency was as follows:  First                                                               
the Vice  President, followed by  the Speaker of the  House, then                                                               
the cabinet  members in  the order they  were appointed,  but not                                                               
including  all cabinet  members.   He added  that the  benefit is                                                               
knowing  in advance  what  the  succession would  be.   He  asked                                                               
Representative  Ogan if  it is  possible to  know in  advance the                                                               
succession  [of  Congress].    He  noted  that  [the  process  of                                                               
reappointment] would be lengthy.                                                                                                
Number 1602                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN replied  that  he had  attempted to  address                                                               
that in  an earlier version  of the [resolution]; he  mentioned a                                                               
rhetorical  debate [in  the House  Special Committee  on Military                                                               
and Veterans'  Affairs].   He said  the Seventeenth  Amendment is                                                               
silent in  regard to the  House of Representatives.   He surmised                                                               
that  it had  been assumed  in the  past that  someone might  get                                                               
sick, die of natural causes,  or be assassinated, but since there                                                               
were  over 400  members,  the  risk of  losing  more  than 200  -                                                               
thereby losing the quorum - by those means was minimal.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN, regarding  the 100  [U.S.] Senate  members,                                                               
told the  committee he'd suggested  in an earlier version  of the                                                               
[resolution]  that  within  ten   days,  new  Senators  would  be                                                               
appointed by  the [state] legislatures.   He noted that  prior to                                                               
the Seventeenth Amendment, the  legislatures appointed the [U.S.]                                                               
Senators; therefore, he surmised,  the Senators were perhaps more                                                               
accountable to the legislatures than they are now.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  expressed  his   belief  that  it  is  more                                                               
efficient  to  give  temporary unicameral  power  to  the  [U.S.]                                                               
Senate to  declare war,  to appropriate money,  and to  look over                                                               
the executive  branch during a  national emergency, than  to hold                                                               
an  election,  or  try  to  appoint an  entire  [U.S.]  House  of                                                               
Representatives.   He reiterated  that a  bill in  Congress would                                                               
allow the  states to appoint  "representative members."   He said                                                               
the  House Special  Committee on  Military and  Veterans' Affairs                                                               
had debated the issue and, in  its wisdom, decided it was best to                                                               
raise the issue before Congress  and let Congress decide the best                                                               
course of action.                                                                                                               
Number 1453                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  said September 11, 2001,  made the country                                                               
aware that "something  like this" could happen.   She offered her                                                               
belief that this  issue needs to be brought to  the forefront and                                                               
that a  plan needs to be  made; consequently, it is  wise to urge                                                               
Congress to make decisions regarding the issue.                                                                                 
Number 1399                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HAYES  moved  to  report  CSHJR  31(MLV)  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.  There being  no objection, CSHJR 31(MLV) was moved                                                               
out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                              

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