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Hillary Clinton's Fix

Sen. Hillary Clinton on the Hill. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

By Al Kamen
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?

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 19, 2008; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  Cabinet , Cast of Characters , Hillary Rodham Clinton , In the Loop  
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It does not apply to Daschle, because the Cabinet salaries would have been voted in the last congress as part of the President's budget. Daschle was not in congress at that time.

Posted by: kelwien | November 25, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Then this also applies to Rahm Emmuel. I would hope the chief of staff has had a salary increase in the last two years. Emmanuel was just reelected, so he is in a term of office.

Posted by: kelwien | November 25, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

This is dumb. She just needs to take the job at the previous salary. Anything beyond that is an absurd reading of the Constitution.

Posted by: smcase | November 25, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Hillary wants to stay in the loop so that after SCOTUS declares Barack ineligible to serve she will have more levity to become POTUS.

Posted by: Archarito | November 24, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse

You sound like the (so-called Rev.) Wright. Full of hate. A racist, a sexist, and a bad person. Obama used him to get the black vote, then dumped him.

Posted by: ksienna | November 23, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

nobody wants to explore the why? That when Rodham Clinton projected the African American church as a terrorist organization and set up Re. Wright for a lynching, acknowledged that her strategy had evolved into a "hard working white people" core she lost the black vote in New York. So those that blither about keeping your powder dry... for 2012, HRC has lost the black vote nationally as well. She NEEDS State. Ohhh, and Obama won despite what the Clinton's did.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | November 20, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I find H.R.C. not the best fit for the SecState position. Yes, it is beneficial to have your enemies close to you, but Obama was elected for change, and she is not change. There are other folks with less star power who are better equiped to follow Obama's lead in Foreign Policy than she with less baggage. This is one of those times when someone totally not in the usual limelight would be a better choice. The transition team should keep digging and consider a Kissinger-like academic as a better choice.

Charlott M.

Posted by: cwilliams172 | November 20, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

JohnDoug, Arncomp, and others- Actually, only Dimocrats seem to look to Congress for Cabinet Picks-Especially Elected CONGRESSMEN!

When the SEPARATE Power, is Stolen by one of the other two, it is NOT a Good thing! This is what happens!

The NORMAL Picks, are usually from Private Practice, the Military, or State Government Posts.

You know-EXECUTIVES! Not, Machiavellian Congressional LAWYERS wanting to "Play" Executive, or, in Shrillery's case-Diplomat!

Pay reduced for the "Saxby Fix"?

Ohhhhhhhh, LMAO! :-D

Bill Clinton will scam 100 times that much in his first hour as "The State Dude"

Posted by: SAINT---The | November 20, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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I should think the above, is evidentiary proof, of the Hypocrisy and Contradictive "Authority Society" we've created in America, which IS the cause of Congresional, Corporate, Free Market and Civil Liberties related "Grid Lock". Does the Washington Post hold its own Reporters and Collumnists to such high standards, as applied to "Bloggers" or, "The Commoner"? I think this pretty much sums up, the 1st Amendment as it exists today.

Posted by: mooretone | November 20, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I really don't know, to put it mildly, about putting Hillary in as SecState. Tom Friedman of the NYT had a good column yesterday about it. The issue of whether the SecState is speaking for the POTUS or him/herself. Not sure with Hillary "Obama Ain't Crossed the Threshold" Clinton. Ugh. And then Bill, well, at least there's a bright side for him--all those brothels in all those overseas capitals. In all seriousness, I consider this a mistake by Obama. This woman is worse than Freddy Krueger.

Posted by: Plutonium57 | November 20, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I wish some people would get hold of a basic book on the principles of "Change Management" and read a few chapters.

When a company undergoes change management it doesn't throw out or not use its most experienced managers (unless they show clearly they're not willing to buy into the new vision of change). The concept of changing the way you do business comes from the vision at the top, and the embracing of that vision is encouraged and nurtured through its managers right down to the janitor.

And that's what Obama's oft-repeated "We're going to change the way we do business" means. It doesn't mean grabbing the nearest "new" person off the street. Had the White House been Democratic either relatively prior to Clinton or just after Clinton, the Democrats that he could call on with the intelligence and know-how would not only have been those who worked in any capacity during the Clinton years, but he could hardly cast back to the Jimmy Carter era - most of them are in their 70's and 80's by now.

Filling the posts with new people from Utah or wherever would simply be asking for a repeat of what happened when Jimmy Carter brought in most people who weren't familair with how to get things done.... of course, that would probably suit the Repugs just fine - then they could point their fingers and laugh at what would only result in a "personnel" change and not in REAL change.

Posted by: patwal1 | November 19, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

"Well, fortunately for Hillary Clinton, she is referred to as a "her," not a "him" so the emoluments clause clearly doesn't cover her."

That's brilliant, pgbsan! I think you might have found a real loophole! I mean, if we're going to parse the Constitution so closely that we can't apply the Saxby Fix, then I think we should definitely argue the "Hillary Fix"-- a her is not a him. Bill Clinton would LOVE your argument, as he has argued the definition of "is" :-).

Anyway, I would say the Saxby Fix should be legal precedent here for Hillary getting the green light. The intent of the law is not to reward oneself (avoiding appearance of conflict of interest) by giving raises and then moving into those positions.

Posted by: suzganote | November 19, 2008 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama was often somewhat vague in specifically describing the "change" he would bring to this country. However, he needs to avoid the mistake of Jimmy Carter, who did not choose enough Washington "insiders," at the beginning of his presidency. The result, despite huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, was largely ineffectual domestic initiatives by his administration.

The Republicans, after all, have won seven of the most recent eleven presidential elections. Barack needs to choose at least some of his advisers who worked in the Clinton administration because this was the only previous Democratic administration since January 1981. Assuming he chooses competent former Clinton administration officials, he should opt for having some of them, who have proven successful records, to hopefully go along with some other promising individuals, who will represent change, at least in terms of personnel, in high positions.

I think John Kerry or Bill Richardson would have been better choices for Secretary of State. Barack may be taking too seriously
Abraham Lincoln's precedent of choosing the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, a New York Senator by coincidence, to become Secretary of State. William Seward, at least initially, thought he could dominate Lincoln, but Lincoln shrewdly outmaneuvered him and eventually established a very good mutual working relationship. Whether the Clintons will try to dominate Barack, especially in foreign policies, is an open question, but I tend to think she will largely be a team player.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | November 19, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

That is pretty much the dumbest and most unnecessary part of the Constitution ever. I say Obama should just appoint her anyway. I'd like to see a court dumb enough to actually interpret that clause that conservatively.

Posted by: FairfaxIsBlue | November 19, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, fortunately for Hillary Clinton, she is referred to as a "her," not a "him" so the emoluments clause clearly doesn't cover her.

Posted by: pgbsan | November 19, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants workhorses. He is a workhorse and he wants the same in his cabinet. Smart Workhorses! Nothing wrong having workhorses in the White House, seems like we need all we can get. Hillary is the best pick, unless someone else happes to come out of the woodwork in the next 24 hours.

Posted by: msreginacomcastnet | November 19, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that no member of Congress that served the 2007-2008 terms could be offered a Cabinet post - or any other post for which the salary or benefits were changed? Or only the Senators whose single term overlapped the raise and appointment? This must have come up many more times in the nation's past. Executive branch salaries have changed many times and legislators are regularly appointed to the cabinet or other executive branch positions. Can this be more deeply researched. The issue over Saxbe may have only been raised due the circumstances, and the issue previously ignored.

Posted by: arncomp | November 19, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

>>>I am disappointed at Barack Obama's picks for cabinet positions so far. Each and every one he has picked so far are washington insiders. Not only are they Washington insiders they've been there for over 15 years. All his talk about change was just talk....
Posted by: JohnMcCormick | November 19, 2008 5:42 PM

FYI - change has to do with more than faces; change has more to do with change of policies guided by experienced hands. That means experienced hands, not those in the style of "Heck of a job Brownie."

P.S. Look back at George W. Bush administration. Wouldn't you say that many of the Bush II insiders came from the Bush I, Ford and Reagan Whitehouses? Think Condi Rice (George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush), Colin Powell (George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Reagan), Dick Cheney (George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Ford) and Donald Rumsfeld (George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Ford, Nixon) just for starters.

So...what's the problem with experienced people from the Clinton administration if they're coming to town with new and different policies that improve things over what used to be?

Posted by: ldsw | November 19, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Lots of criticism on this thread. Who are these great unknown appointees Obama should be picking? If he does pick newbies he'll be criticized more for that.
Obama is aiming to activate memories of the Clinton economy with these picks. Obama will set the agenda and the tone, he needs experienced, capable people to carry it out

Posted by: JohnDoug | November 19, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Tom Daschle wasn't "rooted in the Clinton Administration." Out of fifteen possible cabinet positions, two of them were from the Clinton Administration. Eric Holder is a great pick. Hillary Clinton is a great pick. Tom Daschle is a great pick. Who cares if they were part of the Clinton Administration?

Posted by: marchamlin26596 | November 19, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

To criticize Obama for appointing people with ties to the Clinton administration is nonsense. These are the people with the experience in Washington to effect the change the Obama wants to implement. It does not mean that all of the positions on the cabinet will be filled by Clinton alums. Given the current environment in which we find ourselves, appointing novices to high ranking positions would be foolhardy. And, anyone with experience had to get it from somewhere. Either they worked in the Carter, Reagan, Bush I or the Clinton administration (assuming that he will exclude folks from the current administration save the secretary of defense) or they worked in some significant role somewhere in Washington. I would much rather he appoint someone from the Clinton administration than the others. Regardless of what you might think of Bill Clinton, his administration was relatively successful. There are thousands of jobs that must be filled. Give him the chance to complete the task before you condemn the whole administration to the trash heaps of history. Maybe his has some idea what he is doing.

Posted by: dcree77 | November 19, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Well, that saves us from Clinton, while enabling Barack to access Slick's connections for after HIS term-Which, at this point is going to be over 4 Years too long!

But NOW, comes the question about a senator setting up a Bill that applies to the Executive-THEN, becoming the Executive!

I am talking about the Global Poverty Act, AKA-World Income Tax!

Posted by: SAINT---The | November 19, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

John McCormick - How about Health and Human Services? Daschle was in the Senate, not the Clinton administration. Also,

David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President
Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary

I would think you (and the rest of the country) learned what happens when we don't have experience in the White House. All those governors and Bushies did a "heckuva job".


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 19, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

out of all the multitudes that are yet to be appointed (all three), not one doesn't have roots in the clinton administration!

Posted by: GonzoMD | November 19, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I am disappointed at Barack Obama's picks for cabinet positions so far. Each and every one he has picked so far are washington insiders. Not only are they Washington insiders they've been there for over 15 years. All his talk about change was just talk. If he cannot put together a cabinet without Clinton administration insiders we could have as well elected Hillary instead of Obama. Let us look at one by one

Hillary for secretary of state: Obama probably did not have much of a choice but to give that post to her.

Tom Daschle for Health secretary: Daschle has been a Washington insider from the early 1980s.

Holder for attorney general: He is a washington insider from the Reagan years as well as the one who counceled Bill Clinton on pardoning a tax evading fugitive.

I still have to come across one cabinet position he has filled that does not have roots in the Clinton administration.

Posted by: JohnMcCormick | November 19, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

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