Leadership safe, but Congressional schedule uncertain

Congress cancelled all its scheduled activities in the wake of terrorist attacks Tuesday, and it was not immediately clear when work on Capitol Hill would return to normal.

A senior Republican leadership aide said he expected Congress would not be in session for "the next few days." The aide added that congressional leaders plan to convene later this afternoon to determine the schedule.

Rep. James Moran, D-Va., who attended one in a series of briefings conducted for legislators by the Capitol Police and the Sergeant at Arms' offices, said that while no decision about the final schedule had been announced at the late morning briefing he attended, he would not be surprised to see Congress shuttered for at least another day, noting that Congress and the White House are the "next most logical targets that have not been hit."

At presstime, the Capitol complex, including the congressional office buildings and the Library of Congress, as well as the Supreme Court, remained closed and cordoned off by the combined police forces of those agencies.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., said it is critical that Congress, "as rapidly as we can, get about the business of the nation," although he acknowledged that, for security reasons, Congress might not be able to reconvene immediately.

Speaking of terrorists, Biden said: "They win when we are not seen. They win when we are not in session." Biden urged that Capitol police immediately begin a security sweep of the congressional complex.

"Sweep quickly, sweep hard. Let's get back to work. Let the American people and the world see us," he advised.

All top congressional leaders were safe at undisclosed locations, although Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. - who is third in line of succession to the presidency after Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., - attended one of the Capitol Police briefings, along with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., according to Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn.

Among other leaders seen attending briefings at the Capitol Police headquarters was House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, R- Okla.

"The speaker has been evacuated. He is secure," said an aide to Hastert, speaking on the telephone from Hastert's district office in Illinois. An aide to Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, reached at the senator's Irving, Texas, district office, could not determine Armey's location, but confirmed his safety. "All I know is he is in the presence of the Capitol Hill police and is safe," the aide said.

Earlier in the day, as the Capitol was being evacuated, Byrd lamented the fact that Congress is essentially "wide open" to terrorist attack, and said that is one reason why he does not attend joint sessions of Congress or the annual State of the Union address.

Among security precautions taken, Moran said members were told that the Capitol Police's bomb-sniffing dogs had swept the entire complex, including parking garages and above-ground lots for explosives and that nothing had been found. He noted the area was evacuated entirely as a precaution. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., reported legislators were told that F-16 fighter planes were flying at regular intervals over the Capitol; indeed, at least three sonic booms, followed by the sound - but not sight - of aircraft could be heard above the Capitol this morning before the entire complex was evacuated. Ford added that Capitol Police asked members for their telephone and cell phone numbers, and were planning to set up an information line and would contact members with that number.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., who served on the House Intelligence Committee, told CongressDaily Tuesday that security arrangements and contingency plans have long been drawn up to protect the president, congressional leadership and staff.

"It was always perceived that this could happen, but it was perceived as beyond belief," Livingston said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.