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that these individuals were chosen to exercise any independence of thought at all when their name isn't even on a ballot. It is just a form.
Senator MCMAHON. I grant you that.
The CHAIRMAN. And in a great many of the States it is just a form. Even in your State where it is just a form to make somebody think he is quite an important person because he is chosen as an elector, when as a matter of fact, he has no independence of thought at all; he just does what the convention tells him to.
Senator MCMAHON. If we enacted this and put the power in his hands, such as is suggested in this bill, then I feel sure our State legislature, no matter what its political complexion, would recognize the different situation and again print the electors' names.
The CHAIRMAN. I checked it, but I have forgotten and do not have the figures at hand; but probably more than half of the States are now not printing the names on their ballots.
Senator McMAHON. That is easy to cure.
The CHAIRMAN. You would have to change the laws. Have you gone into the question of in the event of the shock of losing the President and then the subsequent disturbance and shock of losing the Vice President, what another election would do to the country at the time?
Senator MCMAHON. I can't conceive of its being any greater shock to let the people's representatives gather in the various States than it would be to permit the Speaker and the President pro tem to take over.
That prompts a question. I am frank to say I haven't looked recently at the President's proposal. Does his proposal change any provision for the succession past the President pro tem of the Senate ?
The CHAIRMAN. I am not sure that the letter does. I think it was contemplated and in the bill that was passed in the House following his first letter of recommendation they did provide for the Secretaries in their accepted order, not in the order of their origin, but in the order that they had been named since 1886.
Senator MCMAHON. That was in the bill ?
The CHAIRMAN. That was in the bill after the Speaker of the House and the President pro tem.
Senator McMahon. Now, I would call your attention to the fact that every single one of those persons are residents of the District of Columbia and are here all the time. Literally it might happen that if a catastrophe were to come that the Secretary of Agriculture might be in New Mexico at the moment; but they could all be present within the area of one square mile and without in any way wanting to be sensational, for I think it is just pointing out the obvious, and I do not make it my statement but refer to the testimony before the Senate Atomic Energy Committee of last year where General Groves, I believe it was, testified that one of the present type bombs such as were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped on the city of Washington it would obliterate the White House, the Capitol, and the Pentagon Building and everything in a corresponding radius.
So if the objective is to absolutely insure continuity of government, you
haven't done it under this bill. The CHAIRMAN. Have you thought of having the Senate meet at one end of the United States and the House meet at the other?
Senator McMahon. I think sometimes, Mr. Chairman, we are too far apart now.
The CHAIRMAN. I am thinking of the problem that you bring so suddenly at us. Of course, the world is conscious that if such a catastrophe should happen, they would drop the bomb here, but if you are contemplating that, then you ought to contemplate underground capitals and you ought to contemplate the House meeting at one place quite different from the Senate, and the Supreme Court in another area, and decentralizing the whole system of government.
Have you gone that far in your thinking?
Senator MCMAHON. That is exactly what we should do in the event that we do not have effective international control of atomic energy, and the Army says there is none. The only conceivable approach to a defense would be to burrow the whole Nation underground; which is an attractive alternative.
Senator GREEN. Burrow instead of bury.
The CHAIRMAN. Every time we get into this and I think in most legislation from now on you will always find the atomic bomb in the legislation, or at least, it is popular to mention it when you are testifying in legislation. I think we will come some day to that very problem of having underground meeting places unless you can find effective international control; but there is only one barrier to the international control at the moment; isn't that true?
Senator McMahon. Apparently, yes; and a very sad one.
The CHAIRMAN. So that is something that we can't legislate here at the moment.
Senator MCMAHON. No. All we can do is try to anticipate-as I suppose people in our business ought to do-anticipate anything that a reasonably prudent man could anticipate. It isn't pleasant to think of these things, I will grant you that.
Nevertheless, we have got to think about them.
The CHAIRMAN. Had you in your bill thought of whether you would elect a President for a new 4-year term or for an unexpired term?
Senator McMahon. Just for the unexpired term. In other words, it was the contemplation of the framers of our Constitution that a 4-year term should be had.
On page 3, line 4"unexpired terms of the offices of President and Vice President”-no, I wouldn't want the electors chosen in 1940 called together in 1942 to elect a President to serve until 1916. I don't think that would be sound.
Senator KNOWLAND. I think the point raised by the chairman has some considerable merit, and that is that if we had the unfortunate circumstance of the President dying, the Vice President taking office and dying, or being assassinated, and then immediately to throw the country into the uncertainties of a Presidential election—even by Presidential electors—whereas, the succession proposed by the President or some other succession under the law, you at least have a certainty as to who shall take the oath of office immediately following the death of the occupant of the Presidency.
However, while it may seem a little farfetched, perhaps, I think that the suggestion of the Senator from Connecticut is entitled to some consideration, perhaps after we have gone down the succession—the Speaker of the House and the President pro tem of the Senate, or whatever order they shall be in, and then the President's Cabinet.
However, if on Inauguration Day, for example, you should wipe out the entire Government here at Washington, there should be some machinery available so that the country wouldn't be absolutely in chaos, not knowing by what machinery they should elect a President of the United States.
I think we have some responsibility in giving thought to that even though it might be a farfetched eventuality. You can imagine what condition the country would be in with the entire seat of government wiped out and everyone who is listed as a possible Presidential successor, and in this atomic age it is certainly a possibility.
Senator HOLLAND. As I read this bill it doesn't propose to amend the earlier sections of the Presidential Succession Act, but assumes they will be operative at once in the event of catastrophe and this simply provides machinery to be used in the event there is more than 4 months between that date and the date of expiration of the then current Presidential term. This doesn't propose to set up the immediate succession that disturbs you.
Frankly, that is a ground for disturbance of all of us. However, this seeks simply to make available the electoral college, as it then may be stepped up to full membership, to select a President for the people; notwithstanding what immediate succession may have been provided. Is that correct?
Senator McMahon. That is right, Senator. In other words, I think that meets the objection of the chairman, about this throwing the country into another election. The Secretary of State immediately takes over and under the bill if the Secretary should be out of the way, then the Secretary of the Treasury, and so on down the line would take over.
Senator HOLLAND. If that list im't long enough, then your point would be immediately applicable to the lengthening of it so there would be sure to be somebody available. There should be somebody available to step in immediately.
This machinery prevents the operation of any machinery in such a way as to defeat the people and prevent them from having a choice shortly in the event of more than four months' hiatus.
Senator KNOWLAND. Of course, the situation like this wouldn't be likely to happen unless we have a Pearl Harbor attack on the National Capital to be immediately followed by a declaration of war, or that we be involved in war; so that we must just maintain, as you point out there, a continuity of government here that wouldn't leave us in a completely disorganized position.
Senator HOLLAND. That is one question and a very important one, but his question is a different one, as I see it.
Now you are talking about disagreeable things, but suppose on one of his journeys the President should have a mishap and come to an unfortunate and untimely death. He was elected Vice President. Then the Secretary of State, General Marshall, would immediately become available to act, but under this bill if more than 4 months then remain from the date of that accession by General Marshall to the Presidency to the end of the term, this machinery would immediately become operative to prevent that kind of a choice of the Presidency being operative for the whole rest of the term.
Instead, through the electoral college the people would be given a chance to name someone. They might name the same man, but they at least would be given the chance to act.
That is it, unless I misunderstand the intent of the bill.
Senator HOLLAND. The thing you brought up, which is extremely important as an objective, is not the objective of this bill. Senator MCMAHON. It serves a good purpose.
Senator GREEN. I wanted to draw attention to a statement the Senator made, which I don't think should go uncommented on. That is that the Speaker of the House was necessarily elected by the people, although not the people of the whole country, by people of one congressional district. That isn't necessarily the case, legally:
Senator McMahon. I didn't say that, Senator. I said that the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore were not elected by the whole people at least, that is what I meant to say.
Senator GREEN. But they were elected by a small proportion of the people.
Senator McMahon. By the people in their districts.
Senator GREEN. That is the statement I am criticizing because that isn't true, as a matter of fact. They have been, but they don't have to be. The Speaker of the House does not have to be a Representative.
Senator McMahon. That is right, and I might call attention to the fact
Senator GREEN. So even under the President's suggestion, the alternative he suggested, in order to have somebody elected by the people to some degree isn't fulfilled by providing for the Speaker of the House to be in line.
Senator McMahon. I will add the President pro tempore by pointing out that the President pro tempore conceivably could be an appointee of some Governor seeking to pay off a political obligation in the event of the death of a Senator.
Senator GREEN. Furthermore, you can have a new President pro tempore of the Senate every week. It can legally be done.
Senator MCMAHON. Yes.
Senator HOLLAND. He would have to have a political potency much greater than any I have observed.
Senator JENNER. Sometimes the people that elect the Speaker of the House and the President pro tem of the Senate are representatives of all the people assembled together, which is the equivalent of electors of all the people.
Senator HOLLAND. The man elected to be Speaker in order to be President may be fine for his parliamentary knowledge, fine for his sense of fairness, fine as a legislator, but entirely without experience as an executive in important matters; and it doesn't follow at all that a man who could make a good Speaker or President pro tem would necessarily be good material or even be considered as material for the presidency.
Senator JENNER. It likewise doesn't follow that the electors wouldn't make the same mistake by picking somebody out of the blue, so to speak.
Senator HOLLAND. They were selected by the people to do this job..
Senator JENNER. They were selected under our system to elect certain people as they were voted on in this election and if these people are dead, what are they going to do? They weren't elected to elect anybody else,
Senator McMAHON. They would be under this bill. That is the point.
Senator GREEN. They are up against the same difficulty if the candidate whose name appears on the ballot dies before the electors meet.
Senator JENNER. That is right.
Senator HOLLAND. It might follow if this bill were passed that people with very sound judgment, very sound general judgment, would be selected as electors instead of its being a matter of honorary selection, Senator McMahon. You have good people, don't you? Senator JENNER. Yes.
Senator GREEN. I think this bill takes care of certain contingencies, but the one which we discussed the other day should take care of all the contingencies, and that seems most desirable.
Senator HAYDEN. May I make this suggestion to you, Senator? The Senate is entitled to have a Vice President to preside over it in the event that the President dies and the Vice President becomes President. Why not have your proposal in operation and have the Presidential electors elect a Vice President whenever a vacancy occurs?
Senator McMahon. I see no reason why that couldn't be done, Senator.
Senator HAYDEN. Then there would always be a Vice President to take the place of the President in case of death or disability.
Senator McMahon. That is a good suggestion.
Senator HOLIAND. Senator Lodge's suggestion was good. He suggested that the Constitution be so changed as to have two Vice Presidents.
Senator HAYDEN. But your plan would not require an amendment to the Constitution.
Senator MCMAHON. No.
Senator HAYDEN. In the event the Vice President of the United States should die in office or should become President, the electors would then be assembled within a comparatively short time to elect another Vice President. In that way there would always be a Vice President. If Congress took that step, we would not have to wait until an atomic bomb explodes.
Senator McMahon. I would be happy to incorporate that suggestion. I think it is an added attraction, if I might call it that.
Senator HOLLAND. Just one statement in your remarks, Senator, that I have a question about in my mind, and that is this: I understood you
say that in the event the electors made no choice, that the choice would then under the Constitution devolve upon the House of Representatives.
Îhat, of course, is the case with reference to the quadrennial election, but I believe it would have to be so included in this statute-might have to be included in this statute to become applicable to this kind of condition.
Senator McMahon. Don't you think section 7 on page 4 would take care of that? It says:
Except as provided in this act, the electors, where required by section 4 to elect a President and a Vice President, shall proceed in the manner provided by