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Death And Taxes In Congress

Rep. Brian Baird wants lawmakers to confront the possibility of their own tragic end.

The Washington state Democrat will make another push Thursday for Congress to enact a constitutional amendment empowering the House speaker and the Senate president pro tempore to replace members of Congress as expeditiously as possible in the aftermath of a catastrophic terrorist attack on the Capitol in which many are killed.

Baird’s popularity on his own side of the aisle waned significantly when he told reporters he supports the current troop levels in Iraq.

So don’t expect this proposal to become law anytime soon.

But the concerns he raises have been bouncing around Capitol Hill since Sept. 11, 2001, when lawmakers evacuated the Capitol following terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

In 2005, Congress considered legislation requiring states to fill any empty seat due to such a catastrophe through a special election within 49 days of the vacancy.

Baird, though, posits that most states can’t fill those seats within the mandated 49 days, and that 49 days is, in itself, too long for voters to go without representation.

(Although, given Congress’ current disapproval ratings, some voters might actually want it to be longer — but, of course, not due to death.)

The Baird legislation would require each member of the House and Senate to provide a list of three possible replacements should that member be killed, incapacitated or go missing.

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