Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Constitution And The Lady

Remember my Clinton Constitution post last week? Article 1, section 6 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that no member of congress may take a government position if during their term in congress the position they might take received a raise. Clinton was in the senate when the cabinet got salary increases last year.

Well, it has happened before. During the Taft administration Philander Knox was named Secretary of State. He had been in congress when nominated and the Cabinet had gotten a raise. Congress got around it by lowering the salary to its previous amount. Same with Lloyd Bentsen when he was named Secretary of the Treasury during the first Clinton administration.

The problem is there are constitutional scholars that claim this "salary rollback" doesn't solve the problem since that remedy is not specifically provided in the clause - the appointment of those men and of Clinton is not constitutional.

Even more interesting to all of us is the court's apparent feeling that the average U.S. citizen has no legal standing to challenge the appointments in court; that once the Senate approves the appointment Joe Public has nothing to say about it. It's our constitution, it's our government, the appointments are of keen interest to all of of us and our interests, yet we can't challenge it in any court. That's seriously disturbing.

It all may be moot, however. Even the sceptical scholars agree that the clause in question provides an out that gets Clinton in to the Cabinet; a technicality that opens its own ugly little door. Article 1, section 6 specifically says "his Continuance in Office". Clinton gets in because the clause doesn't apply to her due to its gender specificity. Yay, Hillary Clinton gets the Secretary of State position - 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling are happy. Except that means the Constitution is now interpreted as gender specific and how many rights and privileges refer to "him" or "his" or "he" or "man" or "men".

Irony - that always present irony - isn't always funny; sometimes it's thoroughly unpleasant. I believe the term is bittersweet.

1 comment:

rhonanon said...

Philander Knox??? His poor, poor wife.