Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Decapitation succession talk behind doors on Capitol Hill


For the first time since the weeks and months after 9/11, Congressional leaders and staff are, once again, discussing presidential line-of-succession. The focus is on the Senate President pro tem position, which, according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, places the Senate President third in line of succession to the President after the Vice President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Also being discussed is the re-constitution of the U.S. Congress in the event that a major "catastrophe" wipes out a number of senators and representatives.

Increasingly, lawmakers are concerned about the fact that due to seniority, the current and last Senate Presidents pro tem have been aging octogenarians, and one of them served in the post as a nonagenarian. The current president, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, is 86. Inouye replaced Senator Robert Byrd last year. Byrd was 92.

In the cases of Byrd, had the top leadership, the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House, been lost in a major catastrophic event, the duties of the presidency would have fallen, for all practical purposes, on Byrd's senior staff. The same situation now exists with the aging Inouye.

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