Paul Sracic: Rep. Giffords should resign her seat

The following editorial appears on the CNN Opinion website. Many Arizonans are starting to ask whether or not Congresswoman Giffords’ absence from the US House of Representatives is becoming problematic to her constituents. Some are quietly suggesting that she resign her post and allow someone else to step into the position. Next January, Congresswoman Giffords will reach the five year point in which her congressional pension kicks in. At that time she may decide to resign from her seat thus allowing a special election to take place according to the Arizona State Constitution.

By Dr. Paul Sracic

(CNN) — 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.



  1. It’s awful what happened, but she is not carrying out her elected duties, and it is not at all clear she will be able to carry out her duties any time soon. They are NOT informing the public.
    If she was in a car accident, it’d be no different. It’s one of those hard things of life.
    It’s even harder for everyone else who’s had any critical injury or sickness that struck them from their work. They’d have been replaced by now, with little hope of every regaining their jobs, because no matter how bad everyone felt about the unexpected tragedy, work still needs to be accomplished. Giffords is lucky in that regard, she’s still collecting her salary, benefits, her job held for her. There’s a point when this becomes untenable.

    It’s not fair to the district to have no representation. They elected HER, based on her campaign and what they know about her, if she isn’t physically able to serve, then WHO is acting on her behalf on daily representation? An unknown calling the shots who hasn’t been vetted by the public. Plus the district has been months without a voting member in the House, with no end in sight, just delaying talk.

    But the Democrats have a noxious pattern of using tragedy for political gain. Are they stalling to hold the seat for someone they want to handpick? That’s “concern” and “care” isn’t it?

  2. Republican should not touch this with a 30 ft pole. Honestly, its not that big of deal for Republicans in District 8 that Giffords isn’t “performing her duties”. They probably would have said that they weren’t being properly represented by Giffords anyways.

    Its a very real possibility that her district will become less competitive and more “blue” after the next round of redistricting. Its also a possibility that the district lines will change in a way that Republicans who would be considered potential candidates for this seat could fall in another district (i.e. Kelly, Antenori, Paton, etc.). So why waste resources and energy fighting this fight when 2012 will be an even bigger battle than 2010. At least leave it alone until redistricting happens and even then wait until she decides to run or not.

    From what I have seen, it appears that Dems in Southern Arizona have been doing most of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering when it comes to that seat. Let them look like they are trying to push her out and look like the bad guys.

  3. Yep. Expect the Missouri solution. The Democrat Party Way.
    Anyone who even hmm hmms will be attacked as heartless, as usual. Same old.

  4. Is this CNN peice to advertise the plan?

    “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.”

    This possibility was already raised by a caller on the radio at least three weeks ago, so I guess it’s very open discussion, that the Dems are stalling, holding the seat. Her husband would have to change state residency, first.

  5. Iris Lynch says

    This is not the first hint that her husband might go for the seat. However, he is not a resident of the state of Arizona. In truth, it has been hard to claim that she has not been residing with him in Texas. Of course, as has been pointed out, sympathy alone will account for a great number of votes…in other words will the thousands of inhabitants get a fair shake in choosing a REPRESENTATIVE?

    What a windfall it would be if she gets a plush retirement from Congress (us) and he gets the job and salary and the voters get to pay for it all. What a deal!

  6. If one of my elected officials could no longer perform his job I would want that person replaced no matter their political party.

  7. Missy Janie says

    The fact that Ms. Giffords can not put a full sentence together is not surprising. She suffered a grave attack.
    That said, the fact that she represents AZ CD8 inspire of the fact that she lives in Houston and has since she married Mark Kelly in 2006 bothers me. Why do folks vote for someone who no longer lives in their district much less state?
    That said, she is not capable of taking her seat in congress any longer. Action should be taken.

  8. Quote from Missy Jane “That said, the fact that she represents AZ CD8 inspire of the fact that she lives in Houston and has since she married Mark Kelly in 2006 bothers me.” If this in fact a true statement then the voters of her district are at fault for knowingly voting for her. I would be just as concerned that she knew she no longer lived in the district and continued to run for Congress in my opinion lying to get elected.

  9. Gabrielsvc says

    the repubs show their true colors on this one. Look for Loughner to be declared incompetent to stand trial, then given Glenn Beck”s spot on Fox. This supposed random shooting clearly was anything but. How much do you think he is gonna make after book deals, huh.

  10. An important issue missing from this discussion is that Congresswoman Giffords had “prior knowledge” of a threat from the same person that shot her. She holds some responsibility for what happened that day. She decided to attend an open rally in a crowded setting with citizens (people and kids) surrounding her. She, in fact, put these people at risk. She made no attempt to place security at the rally even though she knew of the threat to herself. She could have easily had this rally in a more secure in-door setting where more control over security could have been in place. Let’s not forget that several innocent people were killed that day because of her, including a little girl. She should resign.

  11. How does someone who is brain damaged, vote in congress????
    If jfk had lived after being shot, would they have left him in office.
    Come on people. This should be simple..

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