Page images

the Constitution and by law for a regular quadrennial election of a President and a Vice President and all laws relating, and so forth. Senator HOLLAND. Do you mean that you think the phrase "all laws

. relating” would incorporate the constitutional provision applicable to the House in this bill?

Senator McMahon. That is the catch-all phrase, but in the first line

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 the Constitutionthe Constitution spells out specifically what happens in the event a majority does not occur.

Senator HOLLAND. This is very specific so far as the functioning of the electors is concerned, but I don't see anything specific in there with reference to the functioning the House, unless it is included in that latter part.

Senator McMahon (reading]:
All laws relating to a regular quadrennial election.
I think it is included, but it might be added to make certain.

Senator HOLLAND. I think that might be looked into because certainly the Constitution as written does not spell out any further function of the House than at the regular quadrennial election.

The CHAIRMAN. If there is no further comment, Senator Fulbright is here and we will proceed to hear him on his proposed bill.

Senator McMahon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



Senator FULBRIGHT. Mr. Chairman, I have hardly had a chance to look at my own notes, and I do not have a prepared statement. You have seen the bill and it is not, I might say, an original idea.

This bill is modeled after the original Succession Act of 1792. It was approved March 1 by President Washington. Many of the men who passed upon that act had participated in and were members of the Constitutional Convention.

The principal provision, of course, which I was interested in and am interested in, is the provision for an election to supply a vacancy after the death, disability, resignation, etc., of the Vice President and of the President. That is what we are interested in, as I understand it—the matter of succession thereafter.

Very simply, my suggestion for that is to provide for the calling of an election. The person who succeeds the President would be acting in the nature of a caretaker, following the death of the President and Vice President, under the law as it now is. That is, through the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of War, and so on; but the significance of who becomes the acting President is not particularly great because his only function is to act as President pending the calling of an election and the election of a real President.

The idea that either the President pro tempore of the Senate or the Speaker of the House should succeed as President and really succeed


to the office of President has never appealed to me. It seems to me that is not the proper approach. There was always much disagreement about that when it was discussed in the consideration of this original act.

Whether or not they are officers within the meaning of the Constitution—we have assumed that. There is still debate about it, whether they would come strictly within the meaning.

But there are many complications that can arise from using such officers as either of those. The thought that they are elective officers as opposed to appointed officers doesn't seem to be very significant today because they certainly wouldn't be elected to the office of the President.

They were elected, certainly in the case of the Speaker of the House, by a very small constituency and with no thought that there was a possibility of his acting as President or becoming President.

I have examined the various proposals. The others have been the Supreme Court Justices. None of those seem to be appropriate. I don't think that the members of the Cabinet are properly men to act as President indefinitely—that is, for the full term.

The vacancy, as was pointed out on the floor yesterday, often occurs. during the first year. Until we have an election, I think they are properly what I would call the caretaker President. I think the only way you can properly have a man really to discharge in the fullest sense the office of President is where he is elected, either the President or Vice President, or in the case of their deaths, as President again..

The bill by Senator McMahon has just come to my attention. It utilizes the services of the existing electoral college to achieve the common purpose. Of course, if the vacancy occurs shortly after the election of his predecessor, I see no real objection, but if it occurs a long time after, there may be a very considerable change in the settlement of the people.

In that case it wouldn't be as safe a way as to follow the procedure in my bill; that is, have a new election, which would reflect the attitude and the will of the people as of the time when the contingency arises.

Senator MCMAHON. Could I interrupt you, Senator?
Senator FULBRIGHT. Let me make one more point. I may forget it.

. This original bill, adopted in 1792, which carries the provision in section 10 relating to elections very similar to the one in my bill, was examined by the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate, I think in 1856, or 1858--and I have read that report. I didn't bring it here, but I can get it if the committee is interested.

That committee examined that act and gave their views as to its constitutionality, and so forth.

The CHAIRMAN. They also said in their judgment the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore were officers within the meaning of the Constitution ?

Senator FULBRIGHT. Yes; and they also said, that the act was constitutional in providing for elections.

As I understand it, in the original discussions in the House about whether or not it should be one or the other the House wanted the President pro tempore and the Speaker, and the Senate wanted the Secretary of State. There was a difference in the political views of the two bodies.

[ocr errors]

The real quarrel centered around Thomas Jefferson-whether or not it should be made possible for him to become President, as he was then Secretary of State.

Senator HAYDEN. Were they printed committee reports?

Senator FULBRIGHT. The one in 1856 is printed. I did have it in my office. You have seen that, I think.

The CHAIRMAN. I read excerpts from it. Senator FULBRIGHT. I have the report and I have the citation in my office. It is a very interesting report by the Committee on the Judiciary, but it is true that the choice, whether it be the President pro tempore and the Speaker or the Cabinet officers, has varied primarily, I think, because of the politics of the House and Senate as to whether they are in accord with the Executive.

Senator HAYDEN. I take it that your objection to the use of the electoral college is purely a matter of timing?

Senator FULBRIGHT. Yes. If the death occurred immediately or soon after election, of course, it is all right. However, in view of the shifting of opinion, it would be funny to have them called together 3 years

after they were elected and under the circumstances now I think it would be a very rash man who would say they reflect the opinion of the country.

Senator HAYDEN. On the other hand, the farther away it was the less time the newly elected Vice President or President would have to serve.

Senator FULBRIGHT. On that particular term, but under our system it certainly creates a very great advantage, and, I think, creates a situation that is difficult to get away from in the next election if this old electoral college is given the chance to elect.

I might add further that I don't think the electoral college is a very good instrumentality of government as it operates at present. It performs a function entirely different from that which the founding fathers intended.

Senator GREEN. Wouldn't this return it to its original purpose ?

Senator FULBRIGHT. No; because of the development of parties. They didn't foresee the development of parties. My view is the parties ought to be strengthened, improved, and not abolished; and I don't see how you can get away from party government.

Senator GREEN. I am not taking a position for or against, but I would like to ask what you think of the general proposition often made that the important thing is not to have any change in policy for the 4 years, that once in 4 years is often enough to have a fundamental change in policy that usually occurs as a result of party government in this country.

Senator FULBRIGHT. I don't think these modern conditions lend themselves to any such rigidity. I think it was all right during the first 150 years of our history, but to say you can't change a policy for 4 years is not sound. Conditions change too fast.

Senator McMahon. If you follow your idea to its ultimate end, it would man the strict adoption of the British parliamenatry system. A President may not die-to follow your line of thought-but at any given time in his term he might have much less than a plurality of the people who would on that day elect him to office, and yet he goes on under the Constitution until the end of his term.




I don't see the strength of your objection to the fact that if the electors 3 years after they are chosen select one who would pursue the basic policy of his predecessor-particularly, as Senator Hayden points out, that brings him nearer to the election.

Now, as to your objection that the man selected by the electoral college would have a leg up to the nomination—he still has to be passed upon by the people, and if under the bill suggested by the President, he, unfortunately, was to pass away and the Speaker of the House was to succeed him, I daresay that he would have a leg up on a nomination.

Senator FULBRIGHT. I don't approve of that, either.
Senator McMahon. But the people would have a chance to pass

on it.

Senator FULBRIGHT. First let me say something about that great bugaboo about the parliamentary system. I don't consider my bill introduces that. The essence of the parliamentary system is election of the executive by the legislature. We still retain the election by the people. All this idea that this is a British idea is not so.

That very thing was discussed in the Convention, and the Virginia plan, which was one of the leading plans, had that provision in itthe election of the Executive by the Legislature.

As a matter of fact, during the course of the Convention on three different occasions they decided that that was the way it should be, but finally they changed their minds and developed this electoral system; but my bill will not introduce the parliamentary system.

Senator MCMAHON. Of course, it wouldn't; but I say the basic philosophy behind it, which I am neither agreeing with nor disagreeing with–I am simply pointing out that there are certain things that there is no likelihood you are going to change our system. I think the electoral college is one of them, as I said before while explaining the bill; and I think another thing is the 4-year term for the President. I do not see any great likelihood of change in those basic concepts. Since there will be no basic change, I think we had better formulate our thinking to that fact.

I could make a good argument against the electoral system, however.

Senator HAYDEN. It seems to me that the only thing necessary to take care of the election of a Vice President because if the President passed away there will be another man selected by the electoral college, as proposed by the Senator from Connecticut, ready to take his place. Then the electoral college will select another Vice President.

Senator FULBRIGHT. Three or four years later?

Senator HAYDEN. Yes; but all that is needed is to be sure that there is a waiting Vice President to take the office. Congress does not have to do anything more.

Senator FULBRIGHT. You don't think it is important that the people have anything to do with his selection—that it is just a matter of having somebody there? If that is true, why not leave that out and let it go down the Cabinet? You have some man who can function, and if it makes no difference whether he represents any particular views or has any ability, that is all right.

Senator GREEN. Doesn't it meet the objection the President made, that he is selecting his own successor!

Senator FULBRIGHT. I don't see that there is much difference in his making the selection and having it made by my old district in the Ozark Mountains consisting of 250,000 people.

Senator GREEN. It is the same point, isn't it?

Senator FULBRIGHT. The point, Senator Hayden makes, if I understand him, is, that it doesn't make any difference who the successor is so long as you have a man. He is not elected to be President and he is not elected by any electors who have been recently designated by the people to choose a man.

The real men who name the President are the men at the convention. Under our system, the electors are just a conduit. They have no function to play of any importance. After the election in November we know who was elected before the electors even meet.

Senator HAYDEN. Congress might: provide by law that there shall be party conventions to instruct the electors.

Senator FULBRIGHT. That is what really happens now, isn't it?

Senator HAYDEN. To follow the modern practice, a national convention of the party that had the majority of electors could meet and instruct them.

Senator Green. Do you think it would be a good thing to have campaigns and elections 6 months after one or 6 months before another?

Senator FULBRIGHT. I don't think it is a bad thing to have the possibility of elections because it keeps the people much more aware of their Government. Under our present system there is a tendency to get excited every 4 years and then forget about it.

Senator GREEN. They would never have a change to forget about it.

Senator FULBRIGHT. "They shouldn't have a chance to forget about it. They ought to become familiar with the Government in view of the difficulties that confront us.

Senator GREEN. The whole country is always upset during a preelection campaign and during the election itself.

Senator FULBRIGIIT. I think if they knew they would have them, they would get used to them, they would not be in the nature of a county fair, as elections are now.

Senator GREEN. Why not have a President and Vice President chosen every year? Then they would keep in close touch with the people, and the people would be educated to all the measures before the Congress.

Senator FULBRIGHT. I don't propose that we must have a definite time. Whenever the circumstances and occasion indicates that it is proper to have one, we ought to have one, and I think that the death of the two people who were elected for these two offices is a proper occasion.

That is about all. I think the circumstances that we are under indicate whether we need it. I wouldn't advocate one every year regardless.

Senator GREEN. If it was beneficial, why not? I thought you regarded it as beneficial.

Senator FULBRIGHT. It might possibly be beneficial. I can't think of any reason why it should be set down as a rule. In this bill I am going back to the faith of the founding fathers.

Incidentally, there is a very excellent little statement that concerns that. It is by the Library of Congress, and if you don't have one, I

« PreviousContinue »