If the Capital had been targeted on 9-11, how much trouble would we be in?

Okay, they’ve just released that the fourth plane was heading for the White House.

All right, that would have been bad. However, my mother and I were discussing this, and we both pretty much agreed that if they had hit the Capital Building, things would have been much worse.

Suppose they had-and say both the House and the Senate were in session?

Just how screwed would we be if the House and the Senate were both badly destroyed-people killed, injured, etc?

Say they flew a plane right into the Capitol at around 9:30 AM. Nothing big was going on at the time, so I’m guessing maybe 100 Congressmen, 20 Senators would’ve been inside the actual building. The rest would be in their offices, in the adjacent LOBs, which I doubt would be harmed so much that people in them would die because of a plane crash at the Capitol. Plus, it was early enough in the morning that some were still making their way to work (my congressman said that he was walking up to the Capitol when one of his colleagues, who was driving to work, pulled over to tell him the news). Also, they weren’t at a point in the session where everybody would be in town, so there would be those who were campaigning and dedicating pork projects back home.

Now, replacing the Senators would be much easier than the House members. Senators can be appointed to fill out terms until the session ends, at which point they either run in a special election or retire (i.e. Jean Carnahan and Zell Miller). Presuming that about 14 of these Senators wouldn’t be running for reelection already, there’d have to be 14 more special elections. Replacing the House members is a bit trickier, but easier because there’d have to be only 100 or so special elections (which are held for House members if they die or resign mid-term) held, depending on the state, sometime early in 2002 or possibly late in 2001. They’d then have to run for reelection this November as well in redrawn districts (even if redistricting was completed in the state before September, as was the case in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and a bunch of others, the districts remain in place until the 2002 elections), some of which would be very different. However, there would be that period of a few months in which there would not be nearly as many House members. If they were to crash a plane during an important vote or State of the Union speech, under current law the House would have to operate with the dozen or so absent members. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA03) has introduced legislation allowing governors to appoint House members in case of a catastrophe along these lines.

Yeah they probably could have taken out more legislators by hitting the Rayburn House Office Building with all the offices and committee rooms in there.

If all the Congressmen and Senators were killed, then the State Legislatures would be in charge. That is, until they decided to hold elections, IF they decided to hold elections.

It would also depend on exactly what part of the Capitol building was hit. keeping in mind that the plane you are hijacking is doing between 450 600 mph, you don’t have very much time to make corrections in your flight path. Hell, up in NYC, the 2nd plane almost missed the WTT and was only able to hit by swerving at the last second.

I would guess that the terrorist at the controls would have aimed for the Capitol Dome. While that would have caused extensive damage to the Capitol I don’t know that it would have killed all that many Senators/Congressmen as their respective “chambers” are at either end of the Capitol with the Dome in the middle. I would bet that there would in fact be far more civilains killed then members of Congress.

This is hardly true. First off, you’re almost never be able to get every single congressperson under one roof, only at inaugurations do all House members have to be present and Senators never have to, even though it’s more likely to have all the Senators on the floor for a vote. Then, Governors would appoint Senators, who would probably work as a unicameral legislature until House members are replaced (if the Baird Amendment passes then governors would be able to appoint the 400 or so who would be dead). State legislatures have no jurisdiction over the federal government, save things like redistricting. They cannot, however allocate funds. They would hold elections, because the vast majority of people do like their federal government, with the US Millitary that keeps our borders safe, the entitlements some people need to get by, the grants to private industry as well as the laws and regulations that govern the nation. So I think what you’re describing is what you want, not what would actually happen.

Does it look now like the Pennsylvania plane was targeting the White House and the Pentagon plane was (originally) supposed to hit the Capitol?

WSLer I think we need a physicist in here because what I thought was that, though they’d hit the dome, the force from the impact would be great enough to make the entire building collapse. Of course, I didn’t even take physics in high school and I won’t in college, so my guess is pretty much useless.

The White House was the target according to the al-Qaeda higher up, so presuming he’s right that’s not the case. However, with all these new terrorism warnings Guin brings up an interesting point: what would happen if Congress was attacked?

I hate to say it but I have to worrry that the US’ war in the middle east would be a lot more vicious. I mean I’d seriously worry about the US military nuking a few cities if any terrorist was stupid enough to hit the white house or congress.

Does anyone else remember that time a couple years ago when Congress was playing politics and shut down the Federal government for a couple weeks? And no one noticed? (Except for government workers and SSI recipients)

If the entire DC area when up in a poof of smoke (which I sincerely hope never happens) the rest of the country would be able to keep the lights on and the machinery humming. Day-to-day, the Feds aren’t necesary to running things like water, sewer, power, police, etc. Even regarding defense - we have 50 National Guards, one for each state, under the command of 50 governors. So, even if we have to hold multiple special elections in all likelihood domestic order would be maintained to a degree that this would be an inconvenience rather than an impossibility.

I think the White House is a more likely target because many (though not all) foreign nationals I’ve spoken to seem to have a mistaken notion that the President is some sort of elected “king” or dictator and his word is law. Nope. From the standpoint of actual governing, losing the Congress is more debilitating than losing the President. And killing 535 people is harder than killing just one, particuarly when not at 535 are ever at once place at one time.

Yes, the President is a figurehead, and the White House is a symbol. But the President has been assasinated before, more than once, and the White House has been burned to the ground and was rebuilt (War of 1812, for those of you who slept through American History). It would be a devastating blow to the country, but not a fatal one. We would recover, and probably quicker than folks anticipate.

If you were going to hit the White House, wouldn’t you pick a day when the President was actually THERE?

I’m guessing the terrorists would have had “September 11th” penciled in on their calendars for some time. The President’s movements that far in advance were probably not well known.

To be honest, I suspect that government would improve. I don’t mean to sound callous, but one of the problems with Congress is that it is chock full of long-term politicians who no longer serve the people as much as they do special interests. For example, Senators Stevens from Alaska and Fritz Hollings get huge donations from the entertainment industry (even though neither of them is in a state with significant entertainment businesses), and as a result they keep writing bills that call for draconian copyright measures, that strip rights from artists, that lengthen copyright terms, etc.

If the capitol was hit, you’d get a huge infusion of fresh blood from the citizenry, which is kind of what the founding fathers intended for congress, and they’d have a sense of renewed purpose because of the attack.

The psychological damage to the country is hard to measure. What would the loss of the Capitol building do to the psyche of Americans? My guess is that it would make them tougher and angrier, and the war would be fought with significantly more vigor.

But make no mistake - it would have been a horrible event.

It wouldn’t have happened, though. If the passengers of Flight 93 hadn’t brought the plane down, a fighter jet would have. They were already scrambled, and were about 20 minutes away. And Bush had already given the order to fire on the jet.

Sorry, but doesn’t this confirm half of my speculation? “the Pennsylvania plane was targeting the White House and the Pentagon plane was (originally) supposed to hit the Capitol.” I thought it was already confirmed that the Pentagon was not the original target of the Washington plane.

There continues to be speculation about what really brought down Flight 93. There is (was) a second debris field some six miles from the main crash site. If Flight 93 was indeed stopped by the passenger heros, why is there a second debris field, apparently complete with human remains, aircraft parts and other things so far away? (See http://post-gazette.com/headlines/20010913somersetp3.asp )

I think this is being way too optimistic. Most likely the appointed Senators would largely be career politicians themselves [I don’t see any governor appointing some businessman nobody as Senator] as would the House members [they’d have to materialize campaigns in a relatively short amount of time]. I’m guessing there’d be a lot of state lieutenant governors, attorneys general and secretaries of state in the Senate with many in the House. State legislators would probably comprise a good deal of the rest of the spots. When you look at special elections from 2001-2002 you see that nearly all of them were won by current or former state legislators. Plus, state parties would be relatively unscathed by the attacks, and in many states (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey just to name a few) they’re very important to becoming nominated for a spot. I think you’re imagining a scenario in which every politician in America is killed, not just Congress.

No, it’s just that incumbents have a huge advantage today the way the system is set up. If the incumbents were gone, races would be more competitive. I’m sure you’re right that more local politicians would rise to the top, but I think you’d also see an infusion of new people.

As for the second debris field, if there was a cockpit fight and the plane went out of control, the stresses involved could have easily caused the wings or tail to depart before it hit the ground.

I don’t see that many new people coming in and making a difference. Like I said, it’s hard for Joe Schmoe to get together a Congressional campaign in only 3 or 4 months, but there could be wealthy non-politicians (i.e. lawyers, doctors, businessmen) who could just fill the airwaves with commercials. You are right about races being more competitive, as this would definitely expedite Congressional realignment (entrenched incumbents keep Central Texas represented by a Democrat and Suburban DC represented by a Republican). Still, I’m guessing that within a decade we’d have a system similar to the current one.

That article was written 2 days after 9/11. If there was anything to it, I guarantee that we would have heard more about it in the interim.