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course of an administration, they must move or lose their most innovative and controversial policies. The irony is that they must do so when their knowledge of the problems, the solutions, and the government's capacity to act is least.
A President needs to learn quickly. A two and one-half month
preparation is short enough. Two and a half weeks is insufficient.
Finally, while contemporary transitions do not guarantee continuity, they are a hedge against abrupt decisions and departures. claims of an electoral mandate combined with the euphoria of victory can induce precipitous actions by those unaccustomed to governing. A two and a half month hiatus provides at least an opportunity for reflection.
In short, time is necessary for an orderly transition to power. It is necessary for choosing political officials, reestablishing institutional relationships, and coordinating internal agencies, organizations, and processes. It is necessary to study issues, hear opinions, balance interests, and devise options, even when the goals have been articulated during the campaign. If we had more cohesive, policy-oriented parties, shadow governments, and bureaucracies upon which the newly elected officials were willing to depend, it would not be as necessary. But in a personal oriented, pluralistic system that deals with complex policy issues, it is.
The proposed amendment would not upgrade the government's performance or produce better and more contiguous policy decisions. It might speed up those decisions but it might also engender more precipitous responses and actions. In my opinion that is not desirable. Government is not improved if lame ducks become sitting ducks. I urge you to leave this part of our constitution alone.
Stephen J. Wayne
The interim between the election and inauguration is a difficult period for our national government. Hopes rest with the President-Elect, but decisional responsibility remains with the incumbent, at least, for the next two and onehalf months. Barring crises, this lame duck will be hard-pressed to generate support for any major policy decision. The danger is that even in crisis, he may not be able to do so, or just as harmful for a democratic society, that he may induce or exaggerate a crisis in order to generate support.
These are the problems that prompted the twentieth amendment and prompt the proposed constitutional change. Beginning the congressional term on November fifteenth and the presidential term on the twentieth would eliminate most of the lame duck period. It would get newly elected officials quickly into place and remove those who were defeated, retired, or appointed by the previous administration. Critical problems could be addressed. Political support could be mobilized. The bureaucracy could be given direction.
It would be nice to think that a simple calendar change could produce such desirable results, that it could quickly transform the judgment of the people into an operational government, providing stability and continuity, making national policy, building support, and implementing campaign promises. But alas--I doubt if it would. In fact, I fear it might aggravate the problem of transition.
Time is necessary for an orderly transition to power. It is necessary for choosing political officials, reestablishing insitutional relationships, and coordinating internal agencies, organizations, and processes. It is necessary to study issues, hear opinions, balance interests, and devise options, even when the goals have been articulated during the campaign. If we had more cohesive, policy-oriented parties, shadow governments, and bureaucracies upon which the newly elected officials were willing to depend, it would not be as necessary. But in a personal oriented, pluralistic system that deals with complex policy issues, it is.
The proposed amendment would not upgrade the government's performance or produce better and more contiguous policy decisions. It might speed up those decisions but it might also engender more precipitous responses and actions. In my opinion that is not desirable. Government is not improved if lame ducks become sitting ducks.
Senator Hatch. Thank you, Professor. Dr. Ornstein.
STATEMENT OF NORMAN J. ORNSTEIN Dr. ORNSTEIN. Thank you, Mr Chairman. This has been a very active subcommittee in the last few years, and I welcome that. As we approach the bicentennial of the Constitution, I think it is useful and worthwhile that we have a searching assessment of the provisions of the Constitution and the basic tenets of American Government.
It is appropriate and it is necessary, I think, at this point. I am confident that as this subcommittee searches through these tenets, the conclusion will be that no basic change is necessary. We won't find the Constitution as amended currently wanting. And that meets with my own views. I am of the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it school, and nearly in every regard I don't find the Constitution broken-with one exception, which doesn't have to do with the provision today—I would like to see the 22d amendment repealed, I add that parenthetically.
But short of this change, that would simply erase an earlier amendment, I just don't see the need for tinkering with our basic structures and guidelines as they have been amended over the years.
And I put this new proposal in that category. I don't see anything about the timing of elections, inaugurals, or the arrival of new Congresses that really require change. What's broken and what needs fixing?
In my view in this area, nothing at all. This really strikes me as a solution in search of a problem.
As I have heard the problems discussed today, I have become more convinced of that, candidly.
Do we have a period of uncertainty in the hiatus? Frankly, I don't think so. There is no uncertainty: We know who is President, we know who will be President. There is greater uncertainty probably during the period of August, September, and October when it is not clear who will take on the reins of power. Uncertainty occurs in elections themselves, or, in systems that don't have elections, in the transitions of power.
And when we have these periods in any functioning system, I don't think there is a temptation for foreign powers to try and take advantage of it, because for the United States at least they know what the response will be. Take a look, just as an example, at Russia, which had far greater uncertainty during their transition recently. We at least know during our transitions and after our elections who will be assuming the reins of power.
Did the United States have any temptation to do anything or engage in mischievous acts against the Soviet Union during their period of uncertainty? Of course not. Because we knew that if any outside threat were perceived by the Soviet Union, the reaction would be swift and certain. The same thing is true of the United States.
As I look at the example of the hostage crisis during the transition between the Carter and Reagan administrations, I don't find any evidence that the solution that was achieved would have been any different or certainly any better if the transition had been shorter. There was no particular incentive for the Iranians to hold out until the Reagan administration came in, and the negotiations that went on in fact might have been lengthened and worsened if there had been a shorter transition period.
So I don't see this as a particular problem.
If there is a problem, as I say, it is in the transition of power per se.
As for the Cabinet, I don't believe that we would find Cabinets, even if we shorten the transition, announced in advance. There are political reasons as to why Presidential candidates do not announce their Cabinets in advance. Those political considerations will not be erased by shortening the transition.
In the parliamentary system, which is not comparable to ours in almost any respect, and so their complete lack of a transition I think is not something to use as a comparison, nevertheless we do not find candidates for Prime Minister in Britain, for example, announcing their Cabinets in advance, when there is no transition whatsoever. There are political reasons for not doing so. I think Steve Wayne has mentioned some of them. I don't think it is going to happen unless you include a provision in the Constitution requiring the naming of a Cabinet in advance.
So I don't think that we will get any greater elucidation of what Presidents will do in terms of personnel even if we shorten the transition period.
Now, I must confess that were I appearing before you 50 years ago when there was discussion of the 20th amendment, I probably would have taken a different position. I can easily see the reasons for change that precipitated the 20th amendment that shortened our transition period. A gap of 4 full months between a Presidential election and a Presidential inauguration and the same period
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of time between a congressional election and the convening of a new Congress really is too long, and it created theoretical and practical problems, including deaths, in the intervening period, often enough that changing those dates made sense.
In the 50 years since the 20th amendment, I think the system has worked just fine. We haven't had those untimely deaths that have altered the balance of partisan power in Congress or called into question the nature of Presidential succession.
Even if we do, we do have provisions in the Constitution and in statutes to handle all of the questions that might arise.
And during this time, Mr. Chairman, our electoral college and the system surrounding it require a certain set of procedures, including the naming and selection of electors, the process of the electors coming together to vote in December, the process in Congress in January of counting the electoral votes, that is a necessary process under our system and that requires some time.
You can't just look at the transition; you have to look at the whole nature of the election and selection and succession process which we now have that doesn't just end in November and then be followed by the inauguration of a President or the convening of a new Congress in January. Several things occur during the intervening period in November and December. Those are necessary things under our system, and unless we want to change the electoral college in fairly dramatic ways, you need time to let those things work out.
Mr. Chairman, at the American Enterprise Institute, a number of people have put together a small publication called “After the People Vote, Steps in Choosing the President,” which goes into all of these transition steps and also answers the questions that arise should a problem occur during a transition. I would like to leave this with you, and, if there is no objection, you might want to put this in the record of the hearing.
Senator HATCH. Without objection, we will, and I am appreciative of your bringing it with you. Thank you.
[The following was received for the record:]