Here’s what you need to know about Congress’s Continuity of Government Plan
By: Iman Ali, MPAC’s Policy and Programming Coordinator
For many of us 2020, has been spent waiting anxiously for a viable COVID-19 vaccine. With Pfizer making an announcement that they have successfully made a vaccine approved by the FDA early last week, and Moderna following suit earlier this week all eyes are on the next stage of the process: Distribution.
Now, for many, including the United Nations and World Health Organization, conversations were drenched in the ethics behind who should receive the vaccine first, with a consensus on Healthcare Workers being the very first. While the United States has most certainly allocated a hefty amount of its first round of vaccine to those in the frontline, there is an additional group that many were surprised to see being shortlisted i.e. members of Congress. So why is it that a group of individuals, that are arguably the most protected from the COVID-19 virus are the first to receive the vaccine?
The answer lies in a resolution passed by America’s Founding Fathers on December 9th, 1776, after a British Attack which threatened the overtaking of Philadelphia, the nation’s newly established Capital. This resolution was known as the Continuity of Operations Plan, and served to protect members of the Continental Congress from the anticipated British attack. This resolution has since been used by President Truman, who advocated for the creation of bunkers and “safe houses” for members of the government in the case of Nuclear attack or warfare. These precautions are meant to ensure that each government agency is capable of continuing their functions regardless of the state of the nation.
This is relevant in modern times, because the argument of protecting our government officials in the same capacity as healthcare workers is focused not on the risk of contracting the disease, but rather the risk to democracy if many/any in the Government were to fall ill. The role of the government as outlined poignantly by America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address dictates that Government is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” therefore in order to sustain its work it must make sure that it is taking care of the people that comprise it, and in 2020 that means allocating the first round of vaccines to its members.
Now this may seem like yet another privilege accrued by some of the most wealth and powerful members of our ruling class, however could there be a benefit in the expedited vaccination of members of Congress? In a poll by the Pew Research Center conducted in early December, nearly 53% of American responded that they would NOT get the first COVID-19 vaccine, citing personal concern and lack of trust in the government as justification. However, due to an influx of government officials receiving the vaccine, with President-Elect Biden even showcasing his experience on public television, and Representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez capturing her’s via Instagram live and answering question for the public, it seems that a new study shows that nearly 60% of americans now intend to take the vaccination. This study was also conducted by the Pew Research Center, and shows how drastic of an impact seeing others receive the vaccine can have. Though the study cited exacerbation of COVID-19 also as a likely influence in the influx of those wanting the vaccine, this leads us to question — did the Continuity of Government Plan have an additional side effect? And was it intentional?
Let us know what you think!