The US Congress is closed because of human failure in the House. However, if the cause, for instance, were a terrorist attack on the Capitol, resulting in the death of House members, including its leadership, what would the Executive Branch do to help Congress get back to work? Who knows?
During 30 years working in the State Department, I participated in a number of exercises addressing similar emergencies aimed at reconstituting a viable US government. However, the reality today is no scenario. It involves multiple domestic and foreign crises that require Congressional action. The entire federal government could be forced to shut in 4-5 weeks because the Continuing Resolution Congress recently passed, ends in November. And the inability of the House to elect its speaker means no one has the authority to convene its members, to address and vote on funding (or any) legislation.
Moreover, the the US for circa 20 months has been leading a NATO/EU coalition supporting Ukraine, as it fights to eject the Russians. And then on October 7, 2023, Israel was brutally attacked by HAMAS and has now declared war against it.
The US is unable to pass legislation to continue financial and military aid to Ukraine, which has set the standard for our European allies’ efforts. Similarly, for the same reason, Washington is unable to appropriate and authorize the aid Israel very much needs now.
What did President Madison and the members of Congress do after the British burned down the Capitol and the White House on August 24, 1814? Dolly Madison saved the famous portrait of George Washington, but what did her husband and his Congressional colleagues do? They probably didn’t wait for the Speaker, Henry Clay to get things organized. Actually, Madison and his immediate staff escaped to what is today, Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Tom Timberman is an Army vet, lawyer, former senior Foreign Service officer, adjunct professor at GWU, and economic development team leader or foreign government advisor in war zones. He is the author of four books, lectures locally and at US and European universities. He and his wife are 24 year residents of Kent County.