“He hath erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance..”–The Declaration of Independence.
“A Republic, if you can keep it.” Those were the words of the late great Benjamin Franklin on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia when asked “Well Doctor, what have ye wrought, a Republic or a monarchy?” Oh how freedom could last another few generations had we not had one generation that was so self absorbed to realize that yes, tyranny can happen here. For far too many, tyranny has happened here, and yet we still believe that the United States is somehow infallible to the very human nature to trend towards despotism. How long could freedom have lasted had we simply passed on the knowledge of our Constitution and the protection of our liberty that it provided? How valuable is freedom to the one who won’t take the time to learn the United States Constitution?
One of those simple protections to the Rights of the people to have power over the government was laid out in Article one § 6 of the U.S. Constitution.
“No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.”
Now to shorten this up, No Senator that was serving during the entire term of President George Bush can be appointed to a newly erected office, or to one which the Emoluments have been increased. The key here is Emoluments, or rather, as defined by the dictionary “the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.”
Unfortunately for the citizens of the United States, this is the third time that President Elect Obama has proposed violating the Constitution since his election. That’s not a good sign especially when you consider that he wishes to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will grow the constitution to be more desirable to the wishes of the President.
“In this Country, by this system, no new office can be taken by a member of the government, and if he takes an old one, he loses his seat. If the emoluments of any existing office be increased, he cannot take it.”–James Madison.
In this case it’s the latter half of his comment that applies here… if the emoluments of any existing office be increased, he can not take it, meaning, since the compensation for the Secretary of State was increased during Senator Clinton’s term, she is ineligible for the seat. But let’s take a look at why the Founding Fathers put that into the Constitution, according to James Madison.
To avoid the Seduction of Patronage
“The Members of the congress are rendered ineligible to any civil offices that may be created, or of which the emoluments may be increased, during the term of their election. No offices therefore can be dealt out to the existing members but such as may become vacant by ordinary casualties.”–James Madison
The idea was that congress would abuse their powers, intentionally voting for a pay increase on a job or creating an unnecessary position in government that they intended to take, or to take the most prestigious jobs that they had recently increased the pay raise.
It is, however, allowable for a Senator to resign from the Senate to take an appointed job, as long as the position is not a newly created position such as being appointed to the Department of Homeland Security, or in a position that the compensation is increased such as Secretary of State.
One could argue that it was not Hillary Clinton’s intentions to become Secretary of State when she voted for the pay increase, but even if it were the case, should we set this precedence that the Representatives and Senators could take newly created offices and/or offices in which compensation was increased, won’t we then be opening the door to future abuses by our legislative body?
Our constitution is filled with checks and balances, but when we ignore one, we lose them all. Soon enough, because so many are willing to look past one little violation, our Constitution will be rendered useless, and that one generation will have made the decision of posterity, for posterity.