Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Mass Incapacitation and Appointment of House Members


In case of a terror attack or other disaster that causes a mass incapacitation of the House, the law provides for expedited special elections.  Some favor constitutional changes to provide for other means of filling the seats.  At The Hill, former representatives F. James Sensenbrenner and David Dreier argue against such measures.
Describing the unique character of the U.S. House of Representatives in Federalist Paper 52, James Madison, wrote: “[I]t is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people. . . . Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.” Madison also warned “[w]here elections end, tyranny begins.

Gubernatorial appointment of U.S. representatives would invite partisan intrigue and legal challenge. Presently, Democrats hold a 12-seat majority in the U.S. House (221-209), among the most narrow of margins in recent history. Currently, 28 of 50 governor’s mansions are occupied by Republicans. If governors could appoint U.S. representatives, some might delay appointments while others expedite the process for partisan gain. This disparity would deny to citizens their constitutional rights to representation and the equal protection of the laws. The second general approach to jettisoning the direct election of U.S. representatives is more dubious than the first. These proposals would amend the Constitution to empower U.S. representatives to surreptitiously create a list of designated successor(s) to be appointed in the event of the elected representative’s death or incapacitation. Allowing members of Congress to choose their own successors invites opportunism and confers to a hand-picked designee the privilege of office and advantage of incumbency that must be earned from voters, not capriciously granted. Covert, dynastic succession of office is more emblematic of North Korea than the world’s greatest representative democracy.