It is hard to visualize a situation where there are absolutely no candidates for President, so let’s look at it this way: What would happen if nobody actually won a Presidential election? Let’s say an election was disputed or undecided and we arrived at Inauguration Day without a President-elect or Vice President-elect.
Now, something like this has never happened, and when it comes to Constitutional crises where things aren’t clearly defined there is always some room for surprises. For example, when President William Henry Harrison died a month into his term in 1841, most American political leaders believed that the Vice President, John Tyler, would only be “acting President”. Tyler, however, quickly assumed the office of the Presidency in name, trappings, and all the power that came with it and set the precedent which all future Vice Presidents who assumed office would follow (and which was eventually codified in the Constitution with the 25th Amendment).
So, if no President or Vice President was been elected or qualified for office as of Inauguration Day, the 20th Amendment (ratified in 1933), states that “Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified”.
In other words, it would be up to Congress to decide HOW the President or Vice President should be selected and WHO the President and Vice President would be. Most likely, the House of Representatives would choose the President and the Senate would choose the Vice President. I make that assumption because that’s what would happen if no candidate won an Electoral College majority — the Presidency would be decided by the House and the Vice Presidency would be decided by the Senate.
As much as I would love to, I personally cannot impeach the Speaker of the House, but I assume you’re asking if Congress can impeach the Speaker.
There’s actually some disagreement about whether or not a member of the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives can be impeached or not because the Constitution provides for the impeachment of the President, Vice President, and “civil officers” of the United States. It can be argued that members of Congress are not civil officers of the United States because they, in fact, represent the states that they come from.
No member of the House has ever been impeached and although one Senator was impeached very early in the history of the country, the Senate never put him on trial, so there was no decision about whether or not he was a “civil officer”.
The House and the Senate both have the act of expulsion available as a punishment against Congressmen or Senators. Typically, when a member of the House or Senate is charged with some violation or guilty of wrongdoing, they are either censured or expelled (or the threat of censure or expulsion leads them to resign).
I could be wrong because I’m doing this off-the-top of my head, but I’m almost positive that the Democrats hold the record the longest continuous majorities for both chambers of Congress.
In the Senate, the Democrats were in control for 26 years, from 1955-1981. They held on to the upper house of the legislature for a couple years longer than the Jefferson/Madison/Monroe Democratic-Republican Party, which held the Senate for 24 years from 1801-1825.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Democrats had an even more impressive hold on the House of Representatives. For a whopping 40 YEARS, from 1955-1995, the Dems controlled the House until Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” led to a Republican Revolution and GOP takeover of that chamber of Congress for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration.
Let’s pump the brakes and slow down, okay? I like Cory Booker and I think that he’s a rising star, but he hasn’t even been sworn in and taken his recently-won seat in the U.S. Senate yet.
Because of the avalanche of news coverage, the prevalence of social media, and the rapidly-shrinking attention span of the average American, many people confuse “constant coverage” for “credible contender”.
We’ve already reached the point in American political life where everything is just one continuous campaign. It’s awful, but there’s no turning back from it now, unfortunately. What we can do, however, is take a breath and recognize that the fact that a politician is grabbing headlines or making himself/herself the main topic of conversation during a news cycle doesn’t mean that he/she immediately becomes a serious candidate for President or Vice President in an election cycle that is still over two years away from even the party primaries.
I’m not even specifically picking on Senator-elect Booker or the person who asked this question. It’s an issue that has come up with a number of other politicians over the past few months who happened to dominate a few news cycles because of this reason or that reason and then immediately have been spoken of as potential candidates in 2016.
Americans wonder how it ever reached the point that we’re at right now when we find ourselves locked in a constant campaign — a situation that results in problems like the government shutdown because politicians aren’t governing. They are either running for something or running away from something. Nobody wants to make difficult decisions or unpopular compromises during a campaign. Now, since we’re in a constant campaign, everybody is a candidate and nobody is a political leader.
We’ve reached that point because we’ve empowered the politicians that we put in office to see themselves as potential Presidential or Vice Presidential candidates since we mention that possibility whenever one of those politicians win themselves some news coverage for whatever the reason might be. By wild speculation over two years before primary season and three years before the general election cycle, we allow them to be candidates rather than public servants. Instead of doing the job they have, they shape themselves for the job that they want. And they do it because we let them.
It is one thing to look ahead to the 2016 election and think about Hillary Clinton’s possible candidacy. She’s no longer holding office. She doesn’t have a job to do every day on behalf of the American people. But when we start speculating about Cory Booker who doesn’t even have the exact date scheduled yet for taking his Senate seat, or debate whether or not Ted Cruz is eligible for the Presidency even though all he has done in office is grandstand, alienate leaders from both parties, and willfully obstruct progress, we give them permission to plunge into the constant campaign rather than do their job.
It’s time to stop that. And, just like I said during the shutdown when I pointed out that we have the power and ability to unseat every single member of the U.S. House of Representatives and 1/3rd of the U.S. Senate every two years, it is up to us, the American people, to make it clear that we are tired of the constant campaign. It’s our responsibility to make it understood that we want our elected officials to do the jobs that they have, not the jobs that they might want, or the jobs that others speculate that they might someday get.
Just like we — regular Americans like you and I — can change the face of Congress every two years through the ballot, we can end the constant campaign, too. Again, it is our job to make sure that our political leaders are doing their job — as public servants, not constant candidates in a never-ending political campaign. And, as we do that, let’s also remember that just because a politician is getting a lot of attention, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified or ready to run for President or Vice President.
If there is one thing that the United States Senate and House of Representatives does right, it is that they have awesome sources of historical information on their respective websites. The Congressional Bioguide has detailed, easily-searchable biographical information on every person who has served in the Senate, House, Continental Congress, or as Vice President (because the VP is President of the Senate). I use it frequently.
The Senate has some amazing sources about its history and the art of the Capitol. Here’s a jump-off point for their Art & History pages. I also find the Senate’s Statistics & Lists page useful for research and reference.
Everyone is pissed off about the government shutdown. Everyone pretty much agrees that Congress sucks. Some polls say that Congress has a 10% approval rating — 90% of the country is against them!
But we elected them. In fact, we elected every single representative sitting in the House of Representatives last November, not even one year ago. Yes, Congress is terrible. But we put them there — IT IS OUR FAULT. The American people are to blame.
Do a better job at choosing your representatives. Now you know how much your vote matters.
Congress hasn’t passed a budget since 2009. I think if Congress can’t pass an annual budget, the House and the Senate should be forced to gather for a Joint Session and then that Joint Session should be governed like a medieval Papal Conclave. Nobody comes in, nobody leaves. If they can’t make a decision, we start limiting their food. If they still can’t make a decision after that, they get a small ration of bread and water. If the budget battle continues, we start limiting the water. Then we remove the roof and expose them to the elements. If the budget still isn’t passed, maybe we find a hungry bear, take its baby cub away to make it angry and immediately lock the hungry, angry bear in the Joint Session of Congress. Still no budget? Justin Bieber’s music is blasted into the chamber 24/7.
And then after they pass the budget, we burn the goddamn place down anyway.
I think both parties need to dump their leadership in both chambers of Congress in order for things to have a shot at turning around. We are in the midst of a strange situation — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate are abysmal, don’t have the influence or power to whip their caucuses in line, aren’t respected by junior members within their own party, can’t work together effectively with the opposition or the President, and yet they are entrenched in their respective leadership positions. It’s as if the coach of a football team was terrible at his job, couldn’t win a game, lost the respect of his players, had no chance at out-coaching the opposition, but couldn’t be fired for some reason.
The House of Representatives isn’t a legislative body; it’s a tar pit. The Senate is no better. A big part of the blame belongs to us. It is our job to toss out shitty, ineffective, inefficient members of Congress. The Senate is tougher to do that with because they have six-year-long terms and only a third or so of the Senators are up for reelection every two years. But we have the ability to make changes in the House of Representatives every two years. We could fire every single member of the House and replace them with someone new in 2014. Will we? Of course not. The voters are partly to blame.
The senior members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — are largely to blame for the day-to-day bullshit that has brought the government to the place that it has been in for the last six years or so. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer should not have jobs. They are the party leaders of the worst Congress in American history. I didn’t include the Senate whips — Dick Durbin and John Cornyn — because I think those two are the only party leaders in Congress who are worth a shit, but I wouldn’t put up a fight if they lost their jobs, too.
The party leaders in the House and the Senate should have control of their respective caucuses at all times. If not, they aren’t leading. I’m stunned at how little respect many of the junior members of Congress — even freshmen in the House of Representatives! — have for the leaders of their own party. Raul Labrador, a Republican member of the House, was elected in 2010. In 2011, as a freshman Congressman, Labrador stood up in a GOP conference told John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” That’s right, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives — one of the five most powerful positions in the country when there is someone useful in the job — implored his fellow Republicans to work together, a freshman Congressman from Idaho straight up told him no in front of every other House Republican. Speaker Boehner should have remembered that disrespect and in 2012, he should have CRUSHED Labrador. He should have withheld RNC money from Labrador. He should have built up a primary challenger against Labrador. He should have pulled together every powerful Republican that can breathe and walk, flown them to Idaho, and campaigned against Labrador. Instead? Nothing. Labrador was reelected last year. That’s just one example.
The Democrats are just as bad. They control the Senate and they have a Democrat in the White House. But Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and the Democrat from Nevada is, hands-down, the worst Majority Leader in American history. Nobody is intimidated by him, nobody is influenced by him, nobody respects him. And why should they? Why should the White House defer to him? In 2011, Vice President Biden met with Senator Reid to help pass the two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts. The White House wasn’t ecstatic about the deal that they made with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but politics require compromises. Progress requires compromise.
So, when the Democratic President sent his Vice President to settle the issue with the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, how did Harry Reid decide to help out his President and Vice President? He said this to the President and Vice President of the United States:
"You guys went and did this deal. You go sell it. Not my deal, not my problem. Not telling you I’m against it, not telling you I’m for it, not yelling at you, just saying you guys made this deal. Hope you can line up the Senate Democrats behind you because I’m not going to."
Harry Reid wasn’t taking a stand because of a strong, ideological position that he was absolutely opposed to compromising on. No, Harry Reid was acting like a fucking baby because the White House closed a deal that Harry Reid simply couldn’t do on his own. If FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 were President, Harry Reid would be working in a pawn shop in Las Vegas tonight. But Harry Reid is still the Senate Majority Leader.
I know that I am ranting, but the whole subject pisses me off because the problems are so clear and the solutions are so simple. The party leadership — Majority and Minority, Democrats and Republicans — from both chambers of Congress — House and Senate — NEED TO GO.
There is one more person who deserves some blame for how shitty the 112th Congress (9% approval rating, by the way) was and the 113th Congress has been, and he’s not a member of Congress: President Barack Obama. As I mentioned above, every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, would have absolutely smashed individual members of the House and Senate, specific blocs of voters, and each chamber of Congress as a whole if they had been as intransigent, disrespectful, and ineffective as these last two Congresses have been. It wouldn’t have gotten as bad with many of those Presidents because they either had a mastery of the legislative process or they used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to win the public opinion war. President Obama has done none of these things. Junior Senators and freshman House members from Obama’s own party have no problem openly criticizing the President or opposing Administration goals. That should NEVER happen. Joe Manchin should be working in a coal mine in West Virginia instead of taking shots at his own President whenever he feels like it. Manchin’s predecessor, Robert Byrd, earned the right to be independent whenever he wanted, but even after 50 years in the Senate, Byrd knew to support his President. What’s even worse is that Obama’s top Cabinet members are legendary Senators — Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Whenever a President wants something from his Democrats on the Hill, he should get it. If not, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel should be laying the "Johnson Treatment” on anyone who needs it. They have to because Obama obviously doesn’t have that weapon in his arsenal. As embarrassing as Obama’s influence with his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill has been, can you imagine how bad it would be without Joe Biden doing the dirty work with Congress over the past four years?
There’s a lot of anger in this post and I know that it is all over the place, but I am truly angry about this subject. As I said, the problems are clear and the solutions are obvious. And the past 80 years of Presidential/Congressional relations are a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t. We need new party leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. And we need a President whose approach to dealing with useless Congresses and intransigent, disrespectful Congressmen is more FDR/Eisenhower/LBJ than Carter/Obama.
I’ve been thinking about the last question I got about Speaker John Boehner saying that he isn’t going to negotiate with President Obama anymore and about how generally terrible Congress is and I came to a thought.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President. The Speaker controls the flow of legislation in the House and is easily the most influential member of the Legislative branch — probably the third or fourth most powerful person in the country. The Speaker is an enormously important component to the political process in the United Sates.
It requires a simple majority of the votes of 435 people, many of whom are casting ballots on the first day of their new job in Congress, to elect the Speaker of the House. The voting is almost always done along strict party lines. John Boehner will probably be Speaker until January 3, 2015. It only took 200 people to decide that. Although the Speaker of the House is a tremendously powerful person who influences the lives of every American in many ways, John Boehner is really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of Ohio. Nancy Pelosi was really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of California.
Understanding all of this, shouldn’t we choose the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in a national election? Shouldn’t candidates for the Speaker have to face all of the voters of our country? Shouldn’t all Americans help make that decision?
They have freshman orientation for incoming members of the House and Senate. I’m not sure about what it all entails, but I know that the newly-elected members head to Washington shortly after Election Day and that’s when the orientation begins. I’m sure there is also some sort of transition process where the outgoing Representative or Senator helps out with the person coming in to replace them (much like what happens with a Presidential transition). There are also plenty of support systems, from their party’s caucus to their state Congressional delegation and down to the committees that they are assigned to.
Of course, there are certain parliamentary tricks and arcane rules that take some extra time to figure out if the Representative or Senator wants to master the legislative process and excel like some of our greatest legislators such as LBJ or Robert Byrd. It’s not a requirement to know all of those tricks (and today it’s probably just easier to hire someone who can handle that), but it certainly can come in handy when trying to pass your legislation or kill someone else’s.
Anonymous asked: Any thoughts on Bob Dole’s recent Senate appearance to ask for the passing to the UN Disability Treaty?
I wish I could say that I was surprised that the Senate didn’t do the right thing despite the appearance and support of a nearly 90-year-old Bob Dole who not only dedicated his life to public service, but did so with significant disabilities because of the fact that he very nearly gave up his life fighting for this country in World War II.
I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I’m not. Nothing surprises me anymore about the Senate or the House, particularly in this 112th Congress. I’m hoping that enough was done in November to, for a lack of a better term, flush the waste out of the Capitol so that the 113th Congress can get some good things done for our country.
It just makes me angry now. It makes me angry that these are our representatives. It makes me angry that 38 United States Senators voted against ratifying a treaty that was basically an international version of our own American With Disabilities Act. The United Nations modeled the treaty after the ADA in order to urge people around the world to take care of and no discriminate against people with disabilities. And after frail, wheelchair bound Bob Dole made an appearance in support of the treaty’s ratification, he was wheeled out of the Senate chamber and 38 American Senators said no.
Thirty-eight American Senators opposed that treaty while Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent nearly six years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison and can’t even raise his arm into the air to be recognized by the presiding officer, sat in that chamber. I can’t even imagine how Senator McCain can caucus with those Senators in the future and work together with them. I can’t understand it.
38. Thirty-eight Senators rejected that treaty while Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye was in the chamber. Senator Inouye is 88 years old and disabled. Do you know why Senator Inouye is disabled? BECAUSE HE LEFT HIS ARM ON A HILLSIDE IN ITALY FIGHTING FOR HIS COUNTRY. That was after he had already been shot in the stomach attacking a German bunker. A German grenade blew his right arm off of his body as Inouye prepared to toss his own grenade. Do you know what happened when Daniel Inouye’s arm was blown off of his body? He reached down with the arm he had left, pulled the grenade that he was about to throw out of the closed hand of his severed right arm, and then he finished the job that he had started, tossed the grenade at the Germans, and kept shooting with the arm he had left until he passed out. Thirty-eight of Senator Inouye’s colleagues rejected an international treaty protecting the rights of people like Inouye as he sat there.
It’s shameful. After the vote, John Kerry (another American who served his country and was wounded in combat, by the way) said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.” I couldn’t agree more with Senator Kerry except for one thing: rejecting this treaty lets down the people of the world — 700 million of whom are disabled.
Thirty-eight United States Senators should be ashamed of themselves and their constituents should be disgusted by their representation. Shame on you, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah (who took the lead in opposing the treaty’s ratification), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. If I were running the DSCC, I would target all 38 of you in your next campaigns and lay your vote for the rejection of this treaty’s ratification on your doorstep every night so that you step in it every morning and drag it with you every time that you speak to a veterans organization or a group of people with disabilities or a senior citizen. I’d add “go to hell”, but with the 112th Congress in charge, I’m not positive that we aren’t already there.