Print media and television channels have been reporting for months about America's responsibility to bring democracy to Iraq and other faraway nations that have no experience with self-government.
So why are some of the same people now trying to abolish the most democratic feature of our constitutional republic, namely, the right of the people to elect the U.S. House of Representatives?
An elite group of former Clinton advisers and former public officials from both major political parties gathered recently at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., to announce their proposal to convert the House of Representatives from an elected body to an appointed body in the event of a national emergency. I'm not making this up. This crowd has set Sept. 11, 2003, as its target date to pass a constitutional amendment to accomplish this goal.
This group calls itself the Continuity of Government Commission, and the acronym is apt. The COG Commission is trying to be a cog that manipulates our constitutional process of self-government.
COG offers a "solution" in search of a hypothetical problem that doesn't exist and may never exist. COG hypothesizes that it would be a second disaster if, after a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol killed most members of Congress, we then had to wait several months for special elections to fill the House vacancies.
Why should it be high on our worry list that the House couldn't pass bills until special elections are held? Almost every year Congress goes about four months without passing anything significant.
COG proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow House members to be appointed - a procedure that is unconstitutional. After painting an emotional picture of a worst-case scenario, with most members of Congress killed, COG is hoping that Americans' fear of a recurrence of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, will bamboozle Congress into precipitous action. House Resolution 190 to study COG's proposals passed the House on June 5.
COG paints a dramatic word picture of what might have happened if United Flight 93 had departed on time and hit the U.S. Capitol instead of being forced down in Pennsylvania. In fact, only a handful of congressmen were in the Capitol that morning.
One of COG's proposals would give Congress plenary power to fill vacant seats "if a substantial number of members are killed or incapacitated." Another alternative would empower each governor to replace his state's dead or disabled House members. For example, Gov. Gray Davis could appoint 53 representatives from California.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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