Sherman Moves Presidential Succession Forward
Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing on presidential succession today. Sherman, a leading congressional expert in this issue, introduced the Presidential Succession Act, H.R. 2749 last year.
The following are portions of Shermans testimony from this morning:
œI have spent a great deal of time pushing for Congress to address the issue of Presidential succession, beginning with a Special Order delivered in December, 2000. I am happy to see it is being taken seriously today and more importantly that it is being addressed in a bipartisan manner.
œOne thing to emphasize is this is a problem we can address without amending the Constitution.
œWhat is most important here is continuity and legitimacy: continuity of the policy program selected quadrennially by the voters, and the unambiguous right of a single person to serve as our legitimate president. Unfortunately, our current law falls far short of achieving these objectives.
œThe will of the people would be subverted if a Congressional leader of a different party ascended to the Presidency, and completely reversed the course of government set by the elected administration. Current law could mislead terrorists into believing that by killing the President and Vice President, they could alter U.S. policy.
œPerhaps worse than a shift in policy is the fear of such a shift. If the office of the Vice President is vacant and the President is disabled, the Cabinet may fear exercising the 25th Amendment because the Speaker of the House could alter policy in a way that the President disagrees with. Would a President take a leave, say for an operation, vesting the Presidency temporarily in the other party?
œUnder current law, there are scenarios where one catastrophe could result in as many as four claimants to the Presidency. Imagine a disaster occurs resulting in the death of the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate.
œUnder current law, the Secretary of State would become the President. However, if the Senate acted quickly to name a new President Pro Tempore, the Senator would œbump the Secretary of State to become President. Once the House elects a new Speaker, the new Speaker would œbump the Senate President Pro Tempore, who would then become a private citizen, having given up the Senate seat to serve as President for just a few days. While a majority of scholars believe that this œbumping process describes current law, each of the temporary presidents could credibly claim the presidency “ thus causing a constitutional crisis at a time of national tragedy.
œLast year, I introduced a Presidential Succession Act, H.R. 2749. Since then, I have been working with Members of both parties and both chambers, as well as academic experts, and will be introducing a new bill that can rectify virtually all of the current problems, without amending our constitution.
œMy bill states that the line of succession should run through the Cabinet Officers, not through the Congressional leadership. This is included in my draft and in a bill introduced by Senator Cornyn in the Senate. It also adds five ambassadors to the end of the succession list in case Washington, DC is destroyed. The new legislation also addresses the vulnerable time period between the day political parties choose their presidential nominees and the day the new President is sworn in.
œThe foregoing scenarios may seem far-fetched and macabre. But in the nuclear age, and the age of terrorism, our presidential succession laws must be as solid as the barriers ringing the Capitol.
For a copy of the complete testimony or a copy of the new legislation, contact Sharon Singh at 202.225.5911 or Sharon.Singh@mail.house.gov.