Should Giffords Vacate Her Seat?

January 19th, 2011 at 5:45 pm | 46 Comments |

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At the Loop21 blog, John S. Wilson writes:

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has led to a multitude of unanswered questions surrounding: gun regulation (or lack thereof); heated political rhetoric and its consequences; and what if any effect all of this will have on the 2012 presidential election.

An additional question yet to be properly discussed much less answered is: Who will represent Arizona in Giffords’ stead? Thankfully Rep. Giffords is on the road to recovery. However, it will be long, arduous and unpredictable. There is no doubt her constituents mourn for her and her family. But does that mean they should also go without representation in Congress? Certainly not.

Arizona state law provides for a remedy. When an official officeholder is unable to “discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months, the office shall be deemed vacant and at such time, a special election could be called to fill the opening,” The Washington Post reports. The problem is that law most likely does not apply in this particular situation.

“Legally, it’s not a close call,” said Brian Svoboda, an attorney and expert in political law. “You have a history of interpreting these constitutional decisions and the courts have consistently struck down state laws that have tried to impose additional qualifications beyond those that are set forth in the Constitution.”

So if the Arizona law is not applicable, is there a federal law that is? No, not really. Nothing forces determinative action regarding an incapacitated member of Congress. In fact, there is a long history of members serving for years in such an incapacitated state pleas from others notwithstanding.

Only once ever has a member in such a state vacated office. In 1980, Rep. Gladys Spellman (MD) suffered a heart attack then slipped into a coma. Surprisingly she won re-election anyway but her family soon agreed to vacate her seat, and she never did come out of her coma. But is this how it should be? Should constituents allow members to hold onto their seats like political Brett Favres with no concept of when it is time to go?

Stepping down from one’s office is nothing to be ashamed of. In actuality, the shame lies in not being honest with one’s own self about the responsibilities that voters have entrusted in one and the expectations they have. Constituents should expect that an official will either be appointed or a special election held within six months, not years. This current Congress should take this issue up immediately and in consultation with Giffords’ family and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer come to an appropriate remedy. …

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46 Comments so far ↓

  • Nanotek

    “But does that mean they should also go without representation in Congress? Certainly not.”

    a different conservative tune was sung during that protracted Cole lawsuit … that question simply begs another: has she missed more votes than every Republican in Congress?

  • valkayec

    Of course, this is a matter for Arizona, but personally I think it’s a bit early to be discussing her resignation. Let’s find out a bit more about her condition and prognosis.

  • lessadoabouteverything

    valkayec, amen, she is being released from the hospital soon. When there was the 100 year old Thurmond being wheeled in how the hell can anyone state that she can’t fulfill here duties? All she has to do is show up for some votes, the rest is constituent services handled by her staff, if it is truly serious then let her and her husband make that determination

  • midcon

    And don’t forget 90 something Byrd who was away much of the time in his last few years.

  • politicalfan

    She should be given a job with the administration.

  • ProfNickD

    Pima county and the greater Tuscon area is the most progressive/leftist area of the state, inhabited mostly by dopey university students, semi-literate Mexican immigrants, lower class/poor retirees, along with what’s left of the state’s mining unions.

    It will be Democratic until the breaking of the Earth.

  • Mark Rosenthal

    This article is incredibly untimely and in very bad taste.
    It has been less than two weeks since the attempted assassination.
    Lay off ot it.

  • shinnok

    I don’t think there is a real need for her to vacate. Right now, her vote would change nothing in Congress. Her district is still represented in that Congress by the two Arizona Senators. In addition, we don’t even know how fast or to what extent her recovery will be. Much too soon to talk about this.

  • nwahs

    I’m surprised people feel this must be debated in order for her or her family to step up and make the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. Well not surprised – disgusted is more accurate.

  • Houndentenor

    It’s beyond tasteless to have this discussion right now. This is the Representative’s call and I’ll defer to her judgment.

  • baw1064

    Personally, I’m praying that she will make a nearly complete recovery and, if she so chooses, will be able to resume her duties. Not for any political reason, but it would make me extremely happy to see that.

  • dante

    Should constituents allow members to hold onto their seats like political Brett Favres with no concept of when it is time to go?

    Yes. It’s called voting.

  • valkayec

    ProfNickD -

    …inhabited mostly by dopey university students, semi-literate Mexican immigrants, lower class/poor retirees, along with what’s left of the state’s mining unions.

    Don’t you think that’s a bit condescending?

  • shinnok

    ProfNickD -

    …inhabited mostly by dopey university students, semi-literate Mexican immigrants, lower class/poor retirees, along with what’s left of the state’s mining unions.

    Sounds like you’d give it back to Mexico…regardless of its inhabitants, it’s still a part of Arizona – so how does that answer the question?

  • ktward

    ProfNickD- Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think.

  • Crime Dog

    ProfNickD: While Tucson itself has a below average median income (though this is skewed somewhat by the 40,000 college students in the city), Gifford’s district has a higher-than-average median income (as well as being less Hispanic then Arizona in general and Tucson specifically). As I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve watched the news at all during coverage of the shooting, the district voted for both McCain ad Kerry.

    Also, while the U of A surely has its share of “dopey” students (as does Harvard, Stanford, etc.) it is the best school in the state and has an very good national reputation.

  • pnumi2

    ProfNickD effectively changed the discussion from one tasteless subject to another tasteless subject.

    Anybody want to argue which topic is more vulgar and ill-bred?

  • Candy83

    ProfNickD writes: Pima county and the greater Tuscon area is the most progressive/leftist area of the state, inhabited mostly by dopey university students, semi-literate Mexican immigrants, lower class/poor retirees, along with what’s left of the state’s mining unions.

    It will be Democratic until the breaking of the Earth.

    ^ First of all, ProfNickD — You are a loser!

    For everyone else who doesn’t know (but curious): Tucson is the county seat in Pima County, Arizona. In presidential elections, established pattern is that Maricopa County (Phoenix) votes Republican and Pima County (Tucson) votes Democratic. There is, roughly, at least three-fourths the state’s residents living in these two counties — with the former, according to Wikipedia.org, the fourth most-populated county in the U.S.

    The city of Phoenix is Lean Democratic. The city of Tucson is Strong Democratic. Maricopa County hasn’t carried for a Democratic presidential candidate since Harry Truman won the state in 1948 by 9.91%. From its first election, in 1912, and all the way through the 1950s, Arizona sided with all prevailing presidential candidates. Then, the state became a partisan advantage for the GOP, holding for 1964′s debacle of a Republican candidate, home son Barry Goldwater, by 0.99% while Lyndon Johnson landslided the hell out of him nationally by 21.58%.

    The only Democratic presidential candidate who has carried Ariz. over the last 60 years is 1996 Bill Clinton. Clinton, in unseating George Bush in 1992, missed winning the state by 1.95%, while winning nationally by 5.56%, but flipped Ariz. on ’96 Bob Dole with a margin of 2.23%. He did so by reducing Maricopa down to a single-digit margin while increasing Pima to double digits. In 2008, with home-state advantage, McCain did just the opposite.

    In 2008, John McCain carried his home state by 8.48%, after George W. Bush won it in 2004 by 10.47%. With President Obama having received 45% support each from male and female voters, Arizona is possible if a national trendline is brewing where the Republicans nominate a bomb of a candidate.

    Now, back on the subject of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz. #08). An assassination attempt on her life, and we should worry about her congressional seat? No. Let Arizona Republicans *f* with it — and if the pendulum is in favor of the Democrats (and I’m one who thinks Obama will be a two-term commander in chief) — they’ll have bigger problems in 2012. Nationally. And in the State of Arizona.

  • westony

    Reagan was the President and he had “Alzheimers”

  • Nanotek

    “I’m surprised people feel this must be debated in order for her or her family to step up and make the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. Well not surprised – disgusted is more accurate.”

    of course you are

  • kindness

    So, is this what the right feels now? Is this what politics has come to? If one seeks new representatives, the answer to new political blood is to seriously wound and hospitalize current representatives, I fear for the tsunami of future wounded representatives. Just imagine if that were the ‘proper’ answer to many of the difficult and unsavory questions our representatives are asked to solve together.

    To me, the ‘Hey let’s reshuffle the deck’ response is not well thought out and potentially hazardous to our representative democracy.

  • politicalfan

    “ProfNickD- Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think.”

    Is ProfNickD running for office against Palin if she runs?

  • LauraNo

    ProfNick might be the alias of the writer of this tasteless article.

  • ktward

    Is ProfNickD running for office against Palin if she runs?

    Actually, I suspect he’s on her short list for campaign manager. Or publicist.

  • johncm

    I think it’s pretty clear that what NickD is saying in referencing the electoral makeup of Giffords’ district is that it doesn’t matter if she steps down because another Democrat will just be voted back in.

    In other words, he’s complaining that Loughner didn’t do what he did in a Republican-governed state that stipulates executive appointments to fill vacated seats, rather than special elections.

    Congratulations, Frum Forum. Are you happy with yourselves for posting this filth?

  • medinnus

    Over at Andrew Sullivan’s the day of the shooting — http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/01/murder-in-arizona-live-blogging.html — a serving member of the US military recounted the reaction of some GOP in line in front of him:

    ” I am standing in the aisle at Costco when I found out my Congresswomen, Gabrielle Giffords, has been shot dead up on the north side. While I’m scrambling with my phone, two couples in front of me are talking about it and suddenly I hear one of the women say, “Well, that’s to be expected when you’re so liberal.”

    And the other woman says, “Ohh, so we get to appoint a Republican?”

    I did not trust myself to speak. I’m a Soldier. Please remind me what country I am fighting for? At least seven people are dead. She happens to be the only member of Congress married to an active duty military — he’s a Navy officer serving as an astronaut.”

    Tact, courtesy, remembering that these people you dismiss as marginally human, and not entitled to the basic consideration you’d give a dog, is increasingly rare in the Conservative Wing.

  • ktward

    johncm.

    Frankly, I’d much rather deal with the occasional ProfNickDs–the whole silly lot of them–if the option is for FF to start aggressively censoring commenters based on what will inevitably prove to be some editor’s subjective “filth” barometer.

    Not that I’ve ever agreed with his opinions, but Prof is hardly profane by any reasoned measurement.

  • ktward

    medinnus.

    The kind of desensitization that this soldier outlines is what proves the most insidiously destructive to our nation’s well-being. No question.

    But I do not believe it’s the Rahm-like FU outbursts and calling one another a**holes that’s the main culprit– those shenanigans have been around forever, although our awareness of it is admittedly heightened thanks to today’s 24/7 media realities.

    It concerns me that many seem to be conflating rude and/or uncivil rhetoric with strategic, propagandic themes that are designed and orchestrated specifically to dehumanize opposing opinion in order to foster the kind of utterly profane, desensitized public opinion that this soldier witnessed.

    To my mind, tact and courtesy–or lack thereof–are not the bullseye we should be aiming for. But you are correct, in that it is the GOP at large–teamed with a specific conservative/RR cabal–that so eagerly and readily employs dehumanizing tactics.

  • pnumi2

    ktward

    “To my mind, tact and courtesy–or lack thereof–are not the bullseye we should be aiming for.”

    I agree that “tact and courtesy” exist in politics only in the Land of the Tooth Fairy. As I always find your opinion to be on target and as I don’t have a clue myself where to aim, can you tells us where you would concentrate your efforts?

  • ktward

    pnumi2.

    First, I have kids in college. After years of fine-tuning, my sarcasm meter is highly sensitive– but I’m fairly deft at ignoring it. So I will. (btw, I was late back to a previous thread, left a comment for you here.)

    Since you asked …
    My own efforts are concentrated on not making a BFD over every tactless, discourteous comment made by pols and pundits. Heaven knows I don’t always agree with Frum, but on this issue I largely do: the problem is not heated rhetoric, but the relentless paranoid narrative.

  • pnumi2

    ktward

    You are unkind, Sir. I meant no such disrespect. I think I know where most of the usual suspects hang their hats and try ( not always succesfully) not to criticize any on the left for disagreeing with me about minor issues of the bigger consideration

    I do have an occasionally nasty habit of trying to be funny and don’t always think about how inappropriate I am being.

    As Hamlet says in great understatement to Laertes, after killing his father and driving his sister to suicide, “I have shot my arrow o’re the house and hurt my brother.” I will watch my sarcasm from now on. Anyway don’t you find it quicker to avoid sarcasm and go right for the jugular ?

    “My own efforts are concentrated on not making a BFD over every tactless, discourteous comment made by pols and pundits. Heaven knows I don’t always agree with Frum, but on this issue I largely do: the problem is not heated rhetoric, but the relentless paranoid narrative.”

    I agree with you on this, although the cumulative effect of “heated rhetoric” to me is indistinguishable from the “relentless paranoid narrative.

  • jenncoolva

    For SHAME! Have you no soul sir? The Congresswoman is laying in a hospital bed RECOVERING from the crosshairs placed on her by your beloved Sarah Palin.

    SHAME. ON. YOU!

  • beemerron

    From Life Of Bryan “But I’m not dead yet”.

  • andie

    I’m a Tucsonan and Gabby is my congresswoman. I want her back whole and I think it is very possible as she continues to show remarkable signs of recovery only 12 days after a bullet was shot through her brain. Hello! Who is anyone to call for her to step down. She will assess the situation with her husband when she has had more time to recover. Meanwhile, her staff is working, opening the Monday after the shooting, and Grijalva’s staff is helping as well. Her sonstituents are being served. We here, in Tucson, want Gabby back in congress. We are not concerned about it taking the time it needs to take. I believe the law protects her seat for some time and no one here is calling for her to step down. Even our governor scoffs at the idea. How soulless of those who think otherwise.

  • jnail

    This post is beyond offensive.

    Sen. Tim Johnson of SD was out of work with a brain hemorrhage from Dec of 2006 until early Sept. 2007.

  • gordon_z

    [I never thought I would go to the length to sign up just to post one word:]

    Despicable!

    [You may delete my account now.]

  • Horus

    David, I have lost all respect for you with this posting!
    I thought you were one of the last Republicans to remain sane, but this proves me wrong.
    Just what the hell were you thinking?
    You are just as low as Limbaugh and the others in your party that you criticize.
    Scum, nothing but scum!
    Why weren’t you calling for Strom Thurmond to resign when it was very clear to everyone that he had lost his mind?
    What a fucking disappointment you are!
    You ought to be ashamed of yourself!
    Conservatives have no shame!

  • Darrtown

    John S. Wilson at Loop21 blog is a sorry excuse for a human for writing stuff like this article.

    Frumforum also should know better than to give traction to a story such as this trash.

    Gabby Giffords is my congresswoman. The affairs of her office are being handled through the kind efforts of our other local Representative Raul Grijalva, so we are not left high and dry as Mr. Wilson would have all believe. I would be using far stronger language to characterize this “story” but decorum prevents me.

  • ktward

    pnumi2 // Jan 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm: ktward, You are unkind, Sir.

    That’s a perception, pnumi2, that ruffles my otherwise mostly unruffle-erable feathers. For which I’m reflexively compelled to genuinely apologize. It is never, ever, my intention to come off as unkind. To anyone.

    Ah, the limitations of blogs.
    The subtle nuances of F2F conversation is often completely lost. Even more unfortunate, miscommunication is more often the rule than the exception. Especially among those of us who are compelled, for whatever silly reasons, to attempt subtlety and nuance. Or innocuous sarcasm.

    I’ll simply add this: I appreciate your views, in that I’ve found them to be thoughtful. Agreement, to my mind, is never a prerequisite.

    Are we, yet, on the same page?

  • ktward

    I wouldn’t presume to speak for anyone else here at FF, but I do extend my personal thanks to andie and Darrtown for weighing in. Your voices were, too obviously, needed.

  • pnumi2

    kt

    I don’t think we’re on the same page. I know we are. Often after just reading Frum’s headline, I’ll skip the article and go right to the comments. What you and another half dozen commentators have to say generally tells me where I will stand on that issue if I decide to comment. A day or two ago you(?) and lessado were somewhat forgiving of Joe Lieberman, and I took a cue from you two and refrained from making some nasty, pointless remark

    As for calling you unkind, it was unkind of me to do so. It is, as you say, the limitations of the blogs.
    And my occasional poor judgement.

  • ktward

    pnumi2.

    First: I was forgiving to Lieberman? Good lord. That was the wine talking, no question. And you didn’t you stop me?!

    Second: I’m genuinely humbled by your comment. Believe me, you’re not anywhere close to cornering the market on poor judgment. I’m pretty sure that’s my exclusive territory. Just ask my kids.

    Thing is, I’ve an innate appreciation for satire and its abused cousin, sarcasm. (Hence, I’ve been cursed with the most vilely sarcastic children known to man.) But this renders me, I think, hyper-sensitive, most especially on blogs.

    I consider myself privileged to engage your ilk on the FF tarmac. See you there.

  • pnumi2

    kt

    Okay, it was Houndentenor. It wasn’t the wine.

    You have sarcastic kids. I am a septuagenarian 14 year old. That’s a match. We could watch each other’s backs when the fur starts to fly.

    A few months ago a friend of mine told me to get a life. I don’t think he meant FrumForum. But hey, whatever works.

    This is a true statement: on the Stanford Binet IQ test my judgement is 90 (dull normal).
    That’s probably lower than Christine O’Donnell’s.

  • ktward

    pnumi2.

    I laughed out loud @dull normal.
    I’d wager that every blogger, in the relatively short history of bloggers, would be considered “dull normal”.

    Dude. Wait. You’re 84ish? And a vietnam vet to boot? (I think I gleaned that from some other FF thread. But I could easily be wrong.) Major props.

    Can I have your back at FF while, perhaps, disagreeing with you? I believe I can. Yes, I’m that good. (Chuckle here. Please.)

  • pnumi2

    kt

    Sept is 7,oct is 8. I’m not ready for the Gray Gables yet. I am on the roller coaster, the big thrills are over there but there are still a few little ones left.
    Dull Normal is how IQologists talk about the results they get. “I coulda been a contender”, except for my 90 in judgement.
    Not a Viet Nam vet. A Viet Nam critical list protester. Way too shocking a story for FF.
    Except for the death penalty, wearing leather and fur and only eating vegatables, I am as left as you can get. My best friend is to the right of Rush. We don’t talk politics. (His kids are 3 and 6 and my goal is to make them liberal when he is not around.)

    Over and out.

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