It seems like everybody just can’t wait for President-elect Obama to finally take over the presidency. Usually, the wait isn’t that big of a deal but we have a full-blown financial crisis to deal with. Among other issues, the American Big Three automakers are crying for a relief package and especially GM is unsure whether they can wait until January 20th before having to file for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, an unpopular lame duck president is pretty much biding his time until then. Why do we have to wait so long?
For those who think this wait is bad, there were even worse crises to deal with that lead to the passage of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933:
This amendment's primary purpose was to reduce the amount of time between the election of the President and Congress and the beginning of their terms. Originally, the terms of the President, the Vice President, and the Congress began on March 4, four months after the elections were held. While this lapse was a practical necessity during the 18th century, at which time a newly elected official might need several months to put his affairs in order and then undertake the arduous journey from his home to the national capital, it had the effect of impeding the functioning of government in the modern age. This was seen most notably in 1861 and 1933, as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt each had to wait approximately four months before they could deal with the crisis conditions (The Civil War and Great Depression respectively) the country was in.
While some extreme views believe in a new president taking over immediately after the election in November, it is necessary to allow some time for the new president’s transition team to make appointments and assemble a team to govern. A natural date for the new president’s inauguration can be on (or right around) January 3 when the new Congress is sworn in.
So is it worth it to go through the considerable effort to pass a Constitutional Amendment just to move up the presidential inauguration date a mere 17 days? For most of the inaugurations, especially when the president is being sworn in for a second term, it may all seem frivolous. But for 1861, 1933, and now 2009 it is anything but. This is why we should have the foresight to enact an amendment now to move up the presidential inauguration date to January 3rd so we can better deal with a future crisis during the presidential lame duck period.