In the mass-dissapearance scenario from my previous question, what happens legally if both houses of Congress are in session and a majority of both houses disappear? Is Congress unable to do business because there is no longer a quorum? Or does the quorum become half of the remaining members?

  • There are infinitely many variants of the now-closed disappearance question law.stackexchange.com/questions/90213/…. Do you plan to ask all of them? In what way is "what happens" a legal question?
    – user6726
    Mar 8, 2023 at 17:47
  • @user6726 no, this isn't a series. These are the only two I'm planning to ask. I changed this to be more specifically legal.
    – Someone
    Mar 8, 2023 at 17:57
  • I would suggest migrating this to the "World Building SE".
    – hszmv
    Mar 8, 2023 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


Likely nothing. Both houses cannot enact legislation without meeting a quorum, which is a more the majority number of members present, so any voting would be suspended pending seats being filled by emergency election or appointment.

Typically, in the U.S., when a Rep seat is unexpectedly vacated emergency elections are called, while the Senate would have vacancies filled by the state's governors until the end of the term as determined by the seat's election schedule.

Given that Representative terms are 2 years in duration, Congress has staffers who are there specifically to help freshman Congress members get up to speed on the nuance of Congress, as well as staffers.

If you want to look into a series that does look directly at a sudden loss of Elected Federal officials in the United States, the tv show "Designated Survivor" has this as part of the central plot, with the main character being the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who was named the designated survivor for the State of the Union (during which, the capitol building was bombed in a terrorist attack) and finds himself suddenly the President of the United States. One early episode deals with the plans for the reconstitution of Congress and another episode deals with the Reconstitution of SCOTUS. While I'm not sure if it's an actual practice, at least one person from Congress is revealed to be the Congressional equivalent of a designated survivor, but I'm not aware if the role exists (Since leadership is voted on in each new session and sessions are two years.).

It's not always the most accurate, and at times tends to be a bit overly naive about U.S. politics but does deal with the sudden emergency decently.

  • So the members who disappear will not be considered to be dead, and thus will still be counted for the purpose of determining how many must be present for a quorum?
    – Someone
    Mar 8, 2023 at 18:52
  • @Someone No, dead is dead. But the seat sits vacant regardless. Quorum would be the number of members that are in actual attendance when compared to the number of seats, vacant or otherwise. If your dead, you can't attend... but your seat is still there. In the house, the number for Quorum is 218 members of the possible 435 members and 51 members of the possible 100 members. Anyone not present in the Quorum is marked absent on the vote count. Votes pass with the required majority of Quorum (so if it needs 51%, then the minimum number to pass a vote in Quorum is 110 and 26 respectively.).
    – hszmv
    Mar 8, 2023 at 19:23

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