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'Continuity plans' keep some out of Capitol

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On a night when nearly all of official Washington was at the Capitol to see and be seen, a few political Cinderellas watched the ball on television.

Under "continuity of government" plans begun during the Cold War in case of an attack on the Capitol, one Cabinet secretary stays at an undisclosed location each year while the rest of the Cabinet, nearly all of Congress, and the entire Supreme Court gather to hear the president's State of the Union address.

The continuity of government plans have likely been reworked since last year, when government officials reported that accused spy Robert Hanssen had sold them to the Soviet Union years ago.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton  

This year, Interior Secretary Gale Norton was the designated Cabinet absentee.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, telephoned House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, about 5:30 p.m. to ask him to be the "representative of the legislative branch in the event of a catastrophe," DeLay press secretary Stuart Roy said.

Roy said DeLay was flown by helicopter over an hour away to a "secure location."

Back on September 20, when President Bush addressed the nation from the House chamber, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, skipped the speech at the request of Hastert.

Senate leadership aides told CNN that no senator was asked to miss the address.




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