Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mark Kirk makes dramatic return to the Senate

The Washington Post is reporting that Sen. Mark Kirk returned to work today after a year away, due to the stroke he suffered Jan. 21, 2012.

In a dramatic return to Capitol Hill less than a year after suffering a stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) climbed the stairs of the Senate Thursday as most of his colleagues watched and cheered.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m., Kirk emerged from an SUV parked by the Senate carriage entrance of the Capitol and walked over to the main staircase, where he was greeted by Vice President Biden, his fellow Illinois senator, Dick Durbin (D) and close friend, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.).

The Kirk case and others like it--Gabby Giffords of Arizona comes to mind--where a member of Congress is temporarily incapacitated make me think that we ought to have a law in place which allows someone to be appointed temporarily to serve place of an incapacitated member until the elected official is able to go back to work.

It doesn't make sense to me that the constituency of a senator like Mr. Kirk should go for months on end with no one representing them. After Gabby Giffords was nearly killed by a gunman, her constituents in Tucson had no member of the House for almost two years until she finally retired.

One possibility would be to give the governor of the home state of the member of Congress the power to make the temporary appointment, subject to approval of his state's upper legislative chamber. Another could be to have each member nominate his interim replacement--perhaps his chief of staff--before he is elected. In the latter case, the would be-interim member would have no responsibilities, just like the vice president of the U.S., other than in the case where the elected official is temporarily incapacitated.

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