Who Is The President?<p>A Question America Should Never Have To Ask

In: All News   Posted 09/16/2003

WASHINGTON—The President, the vice president, the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and all members of the President's cabinet live and work in the greater Washington, D.C. area. If a catastrophic terrorist attack were to strike Washington, killing or incapacitating the President and the entire line of succession, who is the President? The frightening answer: Nobody knows. That answer is not good enough, and on Tuesday, two Senate committees joined forces to identify inadequacies, and find solutions. Spearheading the effort are U.S. Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) who co-chaired a joint hearing of the Rules and Judiciary committees, entitled, Ensuring the Continuity of the United States Government: The Presidency."Not since the Cold War, have we had to think seriously about the scenarios that might threaten the continuity and the very fabric of our governmental structure," Lott said. "We probably can't address every possible scenario in presidential succession, but there are some critical situations not now covered by our current system that we should address.""The laws governing presidential succession are wholly inadequate, and potentially unconstitutional," Cornyn said. "Our continuity procedures don't reflect the realities of a post-9/11 world. It is now time for us to find the gaps in our national security and address them before it is too late." the nation is not currently equipped to deal with the wide range of scenarios that could face the government following the death or incapacitation of members in the line of presidential succession. The Constitution authorizes Congress to enact laws to provide for the event that both the President and vice president are killed or incapacitated, but federal law has long been criticized by the nation's leading legal scholars as unconstitutional and unworkable."Whose orders should be followed by the military, by our intelligence agencies, by our federal law enforcement agencies? If offices are contested and lawsuits are filed, will courts take the case? How long will they take to rule, how will they rule, and will their rulings be respected?" Cornyn asked at the hearing. "These are all questions America should never have to ask, especially in the aftermath of a catastrophe." Witnesses at the hearing outlined the inadequacies and constitutional flaws in current law, and called for immediate solutions, including removing members of Congress from the line of succession, and adding individuals with executive experience who do not live and work in the Washington, D.C. area. Sen. Lott chairs the Committee on Rules and Administration, whose jurisdiction includes federal elections generally, including the election of the President, vice president, and members of Congress. Sen. Cornyn chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution; its jurisdiction includes constitutional amendments such as might be needed to correct problems with continuity of government and is the only former judge on the Judiciary Committee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge. Witness list follows - Prof. Akhil Amar Southmayd Professor of Law and Political Science Yale Law School, New Haven, CT Akhil Reed Amar is the Southmayd Professor at the Yale School of Law specializing in constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, and American legal history. After receiving his B.A. (1980) as well as his J.D. (1984) from Yale, Prof. Amar served as a law clerk for the honorable Judge Stephen Breyer, U.S. Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit, before returning to Yale as a Professor of Law. He has become a commanding authority in the legal field publishing several books and articles, most recently Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (2000). Dr. John C. Fortier Executive Director, Continuity of Government Commission Research Associate, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC John C. Fortier, Ph.D. John C. Fortier is a research associate at the American Enterprise Institute where he is executive director of the Continuity of Government Commission and project manager of the Transition to Governing Project. He is also a regular participant in "Election Watch," AEI's election analysis forum. Fortier is a political scientist. He has taught at Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Delaware. Prior to coming to AEI, he was a research associate at the Worcester Municipal Research Bureau in Massachusetts Mr. M. Miller Baker, Esq. McDermott, Will & Emery, Washington, DC Mr. M. Miller Baker is a resident partner with McDermott, Will & Emery concentrating on complex trial and appellate litigation with an emphasis on constitutional issues. After graduating from Louisiana State University and receiving his J.D. from Tulane University (1984), Mr. Baker clerked for judges on the federal district and appellate bench, and later served in the Justice Department. Mr. Baker has also acted as counsel to Senator Hatch on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in addition to testifying before Congress on the Constitution and arguing successfully before the Supreme Court, winning a unanimous decision in 1997. Prof. Howard M. Wasserman Assistant Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law, Miami, FL Howard M Wasserman is an Assistant Professor of Law at Florida International University College of Law. He has produced several papers including "Structured Principles and Presidential Succession" (2001) and "The Trouble with Shadow Government" (2003).