Quicker Relief from Our Bad Choices
On the federal level, undesirable elected officials are removed from office by other elected officials, not by the People. The process for removal is either impeachment or expulsion, depending on the office. For the People to get rid of an undesirable elected official in the federal government, they must wait until the next election to get relief from their bad choices.
In Article 1, Section 5, Paragraph 2, (and nowhere else), the Constitution addresses expulsion: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”
In its entire 225-year history, the U.S. House of Representatives has managed to expel just five of its members. In 1861 the House expelled three members for disloyalty to the Union and taking up arms against the United States. The remaining expulsions occurred in 1980 and 2002.
In its entire 225-year history, the U.S. Senate has expelled only 15 of its members. The first expulsion was for William Blount, who was convicted of treason and conspiracy in 1797. All the other expulsions occurred during the Civil War and were for “supporting the Confederate rebellion.”
Since 1862 the Senate has expelled none of its members. Since 1808 the Senate has mounted 18 expulsion proceedings that didn’t result in expulsion. Since 1942 there have been but three expulsion proceedings, and they all resulted in resignation. Since the first Senate (1789), there have been 21 proceedings that resulted in either expulsion or resignation.
It’s safe to conclude that the Senate’s criteria for who is fit to sit in the U.S. Senate might be lower than that of the People. Hell, I can think of 21sitting U.S. senators that I would expel just for being stupid (or ugly).
Nowhere is it written that Americans are required to endure bad government. So why do we put up with these jerks? There are already mechanisms in place for the People to remove bad officials. Some states have the recall election, which was used to remove California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. The recall can also result in vindication, as it did in Wisconsin when Gov. Scott Walker survived his recall even stronger than before. But the recall election is not available on the federal level.
I believe that the recall election, or some other means, should be available to the People for removing any and all elected officials in America. A recall election shouldn’t be an easy undertaking, but it should be available.
Because of their two-year terms of office, the recall might not seem to be of much use for the House; by the time a recall could be mounted, the time for the next regular election would be rolling around. Also, a representative is just one of 435, so his vote isn’t as critical as a senator’s. Nonetheless, the recall should be available for removing representatives. And because the recall of a representative would involve only a congressional district, it wouldn’t be as big a deal as the recall of a governor or a U.S. senator.
The recall of a wayward U.S. senator makes a lot more sense than that of a House member. Because there are only 100 senators, a senator’s vote carries much more weight than does that of a House member. Also, senators are elected for six long years.
As for a recall election of the president, the People don’t directly elect the president, the Electoral College does. So, would the recall of a president be all about electing a different Electoral College that would, hopefully, elect a different president?
The recall of a president would be a massive project, perhaps more massive than a regular election, and it would roil the entire country. A more efficient method to remove a lousy president is already in place: impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached, Johnson in 1868 and Clinton in 1998. Both were acquitted and remained in office.
But impeachment trials involve the U.S. Senate, and that presents the snag. Article 1, Section 3, Paragraph 6 of the Constitution requires a supermajority “of two thirds of the Members present” to convict and remove an impeached president. If all 100 senators are present, that means 67 votes.
If the People want a president removed from office through impeachment, what they need a decent senate. But senators are more insulated from the wants of the People than are House members because of their longer terms in office. However, if senators could be removed from office by a recall election, they might be more responsive to the wants of the People. A senator could vote “not guilty” in an impeachment trial, and then be ousted from office in a recall election by an angry electorate.
Because the Senate does such a poor job of cleansing itself through expulsion, the People need to be able to recall their senators. The recall of a U.S. senator would seem to be about as arduous a project as the recall of a governor; both would involve statewide efforts. If the People could recall their senators, it would tend to make the Senate more responsive.
The U.S. Senate, “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” is one of the main things wrong with the federal government. Because the Senate has the power to convict and remove a president, one could make a case that a bad Senate is more of a problem that a bad president. One could also make a case that under Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada) America now has the worst senate of all time.
If we had a decent Senate, impeachment proceedings would already be underway. But because the Senate is led by Harry Reid, it isn’t going to happen. Harry Reid plods around the Capitol all bent over, as though he has just come back from plowing the back forty behind a mule instead of sitting in his air-conditioned office thinking up yet more inane lies (such as that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years).
Our “constitutional law professor” president has plunged America into a constitutional crisis wherein he is nullifying the power of Congress. But more importantly, would anyone really want to go to war with our current Commander in Chief? He won’t even protect the southern border of the homeland, much less our interests abroad.
We need a nimbler, more responsive federal government, especially during dangerous times. Providing the means for the People to summarily sack their elected officials before regularly-scheduled elections would go a long way in giving us such a government.
Freedom is when they fear us.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.