Feature

Clinton’s Constitution problem

How an obscure clause could keep her from Obama’s Cabinet

There’s an obstacle between Hillary Clinton and her secretary of state job: the U.S. Constitution, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. As “a few legal eagles” have noted, the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause” prevents senators from taking federal jobs whose salaries have been raised during their current term. In January, President Bush bumped the secretary of State’s pay to $191,300, from $186,600. “As a legal matter, that should disqualify” Clinton.

The primary legal eagle is Judicial Watch, said Greg Sargent in Talking Points Memo, a group of “right-wingers” who have “spent God knows how much time chasing the Clintons down all manner of legal rabbit holes.” But Congress is taking this “frivolous legal technicality” seriously enough to lower the salary back to pre-raise levels, as Nixon did to make Sen. William Saxbe his attorney general.

“Since when is enforcing the plain language of the U.S. Constitution ‘a frivolous legal technicality’?” said law professor Stephen Bainbridge in Pajamas Media. Just because there is “plenty of precedent” for the “Saxbe fix” doesn’t mean that it’s constitutional. If Clinton’s confirmed, it will be a political fix, not a constitutional one.

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