Posted by Brad @ 10:23 pm on November 24th 2008

Hillary Is Constitutionally Ineligible to be Secretary of State

Not that anyone gives a toss about such things anymore.

Even if the vetting problems involving former president Bill Clinton’s finances can be resolved, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may face another roadblock on her way to the secretary of state’s chair.

It’s called the Constitution of the United States, specifically, Article One, Section Six, also known as the emoluments clause. (“Emoluments” means things like salaries.) It says that no member of Congress, during the term for which he was elected, shall be named to any office “the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during his term.” This applies, we’re advised, whether the member actually voted on the raises or not.

In Clinton’s case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300. This situation has arisen before, most famously in the case called “The Saxbe Fix,” but it involves a controversial, somewhat tortured reading of the Sacred Document.

That “fix” came in 1973, when President Nixon nominated Ohio Sen. William Saxbe (R) to be attorney general after the famed “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate scandal. Saxbe was in the Senate in 1969 when the AG’s pay was raised.

Congress acceded to Nixon’s request to lower the attorney general’s salary to its pre-1969 level. Apparently this had been done once before, in 1909, for a senator in line to be secretary of state. And President George H.W. Bush, as he was leaving office, approved a Saxbe fix so that Treasury Secretary Lloyded Bentsen could move from the Senate to take that job.

But Democrats in the past have inveighed against this sleight-of-hand. In the Saxbe case, 10 senators, all Democrats, voted against the ploy on constitutional grounds. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the only one of them who remains in the Senate, said at the time that the Constitution was explicit and “we should not delude the American people into thinking a way can be found around the constitutional obstacle.”

Call it the Hillary Amendment?


  1. Heh.

    Hillary comes under fire from Senate Republicans for what seems to be an arcane technicality. Obama rushes to her defense, and win or lose, Obama emerges as the Defender of Fairness and Hillaryness.

    It reinforces the political rationale for Clinton’s nomination. But was Obama actually so farsighted as to see this eventuality, or was he just lucky?

    Comment by Rojas — 11/24/2008 @ 10:47 pm

  2. The people in DC stopped reading the Constitution decades ago.

    Comment by James — 11/25/2008 @ 10:56 am

  3. The Saxbe fix seems a fair work-around, as it seems obvious to me that the intention is to prevent people from voting a raise to a position they’ve been promised, rather than to keep people out of positions. Perhaps I’m seeing it all wrong and it is intended to keep folks from migrating from congress to other positions.

    Comment by Mortexai — 11/25/2008 @ 11:05 pm

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