Should Gabrielle Giffords resign?

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Spacers's picture
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Should Gabrielle Giffords resign?

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/24/sracic.giffords.resign/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

In the months since the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, reports about her condition have been sparse. We have learned of a follow-up surgery to repair her skull and that she was recently released from a rehabilitation hospital.

Also released were a set of photos. We still, however, do not know the extent of her injuries. Out of respect for the privacy of the family, the media has not delved too deeply into the more common and troubling aftereffects of a serious trauma to the brain.

Should the media and the public be so reluctant to demand more information? The Arizona Democrat is not just a private citizen; she is a sitting member of Congress. Do Giffords' responsibilities demand a more searching inquiry into her health? No one is asking this question because it seems moot.

In reality, the congresswoman is not carrying out any of these responsibilities.

Even from the limited information that has been made available, we know that for the near term Giffords cannot carry out her committee assignments, debate on the floor of the House, and, most importantly cast a vote. The result is that for all intents and purposes, the gunman's bullet that so severely injured Giffords also silenced the people of Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

Isn't the obvious solution for her to resign and allow Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to call a special election to fill her seat? I know that this sounds cruel and heartless. After all, not only is Gabrielle Giffords not responsible for what happened to her, but in a sense she sacrificed herself, having been attacked while performing the quintessential democratic act of meeting with her constituents.

The problem is that we so often think of resignation as a sort of punishment for bad behavior. And it seems a perversion to use the names Gabrielle Gifford and Anthony Weiner, who resigned last week in a sex scandal, in the same sentence, much less to dole out to them a common punishment.

But to view resignation as only appropriate in the aftermath of misdeeds shows a misunderstanding of the what it means to be a member of Congress.

Yes, to be an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives is an honor. To be forced or coerced to give up an honor is a form of punishment.

Being a member of Congress, however, is also a job. More than that, it is a job that lies at the heart of our democracy. Although we all wish Giffords a swift and full recovery, we also wish the nearly 650,000 residents of her district to be represented in Congress. While her staff may still be in place, being assisted no doubt by other members of Congress, the staff cannot vote.

I write from experience. In the summer of 2002, the congressman who represented my Ohio district, Jim Traficant, was expelled from Congress.

Then-Gov. Robert Taft, in an act that would later be declared unconstitutional by a federal court, decided not to call for a special election. Many reasons were cited, the most important being cost and the fact that the congressional session was nearly over.

The result was that those of us in Ohio's 17th Congressional District were, from July 24 of 2002 until the new Congress convened over five months later, in much the same condition as citizens in Arizona's 8th Congressional District. On the floor of the House of Representatives, we did not count.

Did anything of importance happen during that time?

Well, none of the appropriation bills for fiscal 2003 had yet passed. More significantly, on October 16, 2002, the House voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.

Would my congressman's vote have made a difference in any of these votes? Probably not, but that's not the point. Democracy is about participation, not results.

This indeed is what Gabrielle Giffords would be signifying should she decide to resign. She would, after all, be replaced by someone chosen by the very voters that she risked her life to hear from on that terrible day in January.

I am also fairly confident that there are at least a few qualified candidates who the congresswoman herself might approve to serve in her place. I hear, for example, that there is an astronaut who might be looking for work this fall.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul Sracic.

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Is anyone filling in for her in the meantime, just like the VP would if the president were unable to perfom his duties for an x amount of time? I'm torn on this one. I agree that it's horrible what happened to her, and would hate for her to be "booted" out of her job... but she does have to be able to perform that job. I'm curious to hear what her progress is, and if she'll be able to return to her normal duties without any problems?

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Honestly I think it's wrong that anyone would even suggest that she should resign. She was injured while she was performing one of the aspects of her job. Her term is for two years and the paperwork to run again must be filed by next Feb. Surely the people of Tucson can give her that.

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I think it would probably be a good idea for her to resign. She should also get compensation though, but the democratic needs of a number of people are going unfulfilled through no fault of her or their own.

I am positive that she would be reelected in any future election in which she stood. But until the time there is someone filling in for her (which is a good idea, actually), then there needs to be someone doing her job.

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"blather" wrote:

I think it would probably be a good idea for her to resign. She should also get compensation though, but the democratic needs of a number of people are going unfulfilled through no fault of her or their own.

I am positive that she would be reelected in any future election in which she stood. But until the time there is someone filling in for her (which is a good idea, actually), then there needs to be someone doing her job.

Word.

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"blather" wrote:

I think it would probably be a good idea for her to resign. She should also get compensation though, but the democratic needs of a number of people are going unfulfilled through no fault of her or their own.

I am positive that she would be reelected in any future election in which she stood. But until the time there is someone filling in for her (which is a good idea, actually), then there needs to be someone doing her job.

Did you feel the same way with Ted Kennedy?

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I don't think he deserved compensation!

Yes, I think that once it was clear that the cancer wasn't going to be easily treatable, then he should have resigned. I mean, it's a horrible decision, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it's an important job and there is no way in the US for there to be someone to temporarily fill in a seat.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Honestly I think it's wrong that anyone would even suggest that she should resign. She was injured while she was performing one of the aspects of her job. Her term is for two years and the paperwork to run again must be filed by next Feb. Surely the people of Tucson can give her that.

True, but she was voted into office based on her abilities to perform her job. If she no longer has those abilities, even due to the fact that something tragic happened to her, then she can't be able to keep her position. What if the same thing had happened to the president? If he was incapacitated, the VP would be sworn in until the president was either capable of performing ALL of his duties, or had to officially resign.

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"blather" wrote:

I don't think he deserved compensation!

Yes, I think that once it was clear that the cancer wasn't going to be easily treatable, then he should have resigned. I mean, it's a horrible decision, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it's an important job and there is no way in the US for there to be someone to temporarily fill in a seat.

Almost 47 years at a job and no compensation? I would able to get disability and the equivalent of social security. I would also receive compensation for the remainder of my contract (up to 100 days).

We have non-voting members of the House. Are they also incapable of doing their job? Many things are involved in being a rep; more than just voting. If my parent's rep is any indication, a lot of the work isn't done by the rep but a team of staffers.

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Sorry, I am unfamiliar with the rules for severance in the US political arena. I think he would have deserved severance, not compensation. Giffords was critically injured in the line of duty, which is different than getting cancer, even if that is fatal. I don't think it should be different from any other job. If I got shot on my job my company would provide compensation (plus the shooter would have to pony something up) but they wouldn't if I got cancer.

The difference is that my manager's have the ability to replace me, even if it's just temporarily, they don't need a mandate from the public to do so.

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"blather" wrote:

I think it would probably be a good idea for her to resign. She should also get compensation though, but the democratic needs of a number of people are going unfulfilled through no fault of her or their own.

I am positive that she would be reelected in any future election in which she stood. But until the time there is someone filling in for her (which is a good idea, actually), then there needs to be someone doing her job.

Agreed.