Wag the Blog: Your Thoughts on Sen. Tim Johnson
So far today readers have posted over 100 comments on our question about whether the Constitution should be amended to provide a way for an incapacitated senator to be replaced.
We appreciate your participation. Your thoughtful comments, analysis, and insights make The Fix a vibrant conversation hub. The following just a small sample of reader response to today's question. The discussion and debate is ongoing...
The question is an interesting one, but I think there are two very important distinctions between a Senator and a President.
The First is that the President is a Federal officer while the Senator is a State official. Obviously the Senator works for the federal government but his constituancy is his state and therefor the Federal government has no buissness getting involved. If the state wants to reform its constitution to handle such a case that would be more appropriate.
The second distinction is that the President is an executive. By the nature of that position it is necessary to be at the to p of your game at all times. An executive is in charge and one never knows when a crisis will come up that requires executive decision making. For that reason even if the President is under anesthesia for a couple of hours it is essential that there be a chain of command in place to avoid chaos.
So I guess my answer to your question would be that an amendment to the Federal constitution is unnecessary. This is a state issue and each state should decide how to handle such a situation.
Posted by: Michigan Mike |
A special election should always be the answer, not a Constitutional amendment. The Senator, if capable, and his family should make the decision based on Sen. Johnson's ability to serve, not how it affects the majority status. If he decides to resign, the Governor should not be able to name a replacement. The people elected Tim Johnson the man, his party affiliation was secondary. A different Democrat may not be their will either as they elected a Republican governor and senator (Thune). Let the people decide in a special election who their next senator will be. That's called democracy, and it keeps the Republican and Democratic special interests out of it.
Posted by: IndyWasDem
It seems that the 17th Amendment is structured to allow the state in question to determine what constitutes a vacancy and then, if a vacancy has taken place, to hold a special election or let the governor appoint a temporary replacement until the next scheduled election.
This method seems sound and I would therefore oppose a Constitutional amendement. I would also add that I would generally support a special election versus a gubernatorial appointment if the time until the next election is considerable.
Posted by: ANetliner
I am not going to give my opinion on if an amendment is needed. The reason for this is I believe it would be clouded by the moment. In this highly partisan atomosphere we live in today I think the response of the majority might be different. It would be better to debate the amendment when no current senator would be affected. Under these conditions I am sure fewer republicans would be for an amendment and more democrats would be for it. Finnaly, as human beings we should all wish Tim Johnson the best recovery possible.
Posted by: Ray
If incapacitated, the office holder, in this case, Senator Johnson should resign. However, there is a political problem if the Governor, who chooses the replacment,is of a different party. In this instance having the republican governor of South Dakota choosing another republican thwarts the will of the voters. Moreover, the prospects of a party switch will encourage the ailing senator not to resign. So if a law is to be written, it should contain safeguards against party changeovers.
Posted by: Michael Klagsbrun
A constitutional amendment is a good idea - but only if it goes further, and mandates that the people of the state must vote on the senator's replacement. Control of the U.S. Senate should not be decided by the results of a state gubernatorial election.
Posted by: e.a. nesi
like the idea of a "living will" for Senators, but ultimately I agree that state governments should decide the course of action in the case that their senator is incapacitated.
I do not, however, believe that political party should be a primary consideration. The people of South Dakota elected a Democratic senator, but they also elected a Republican governor, presumably knowing he would have the power to make appointments to vacant Senate seats. The Constitutional order of succession makes no provision for political party - indeed, if some disaster befell Republicans Bush and Cheney, Democrat Nancy Pelosi would become president to little protest.
Posted by: peter
If the replacement of Senators and Represenatives should be confined to the people of their state, then why not similarly confine their duties to affairs solely impacting their state?
Let's face it, both chambers of Congress are populated by people who can't hold a candle to folks like Mo Udall, Mike Mansfield, Scoop Jackson, etc. There are no genuine statesmen left in either body, so let's transform the Congress into what it really is -- just a glorified state legislature.
By enshrining in the Constitution our expectation that a Senator or Representative actually do their job and show up for it, which includes not just representing their state but also guiding the affairs of the entire United States of America, then perhaps we can show that we expect a little bit more of our elected leaders.
Posted by: Glover Park
January 10, 2007; 12:55 PM ET
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