Citizen McCain, Cont'd
A few Senators really, really believe that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) can serve as president (not "should" serve, necessarily, but "can").
Back in late February, a New York Times story revisited the question of whether McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone (where his father was serving in the Navy), fit the constitution's requirement that the president be a "natural-born citizen" of the United States.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) quickly sprung into action, introducing a bill clarifying that children born to U.S. military personnel serving overseas can indeed grow up to be president. In a show of bipartisan magnanimity, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) signed on as a co-sponsor the bill the next day, followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) a few days later.
But that's about as far as the bill went. It hasn't budged out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it only has four co-sponsors. So on Thursday, McCaskill tried again, this time introducing "a resolution recognizing that John Sidney McCain, III, is a natural born citizen." The new measure has already beaten its predecessor by picking up five co-sponsors, including Obama and Clinton again.
Of course, McCaskill's first measure was a bill -- and would thus have the force of law if passed by both chambers and signed by President Bush. The new one is simply a "sense of the Senate" resolution. Individuals only have five senses, but the Senate has many more -- and expresses them nearly every day, though none are legally binding.
So why introduce a second measure rather than simply passing the first, which is more legally definitive? A Senate aide explained that there are actually court cases pending on related immigration issues, which have nothing to do with McCain or the presidency but address the definition of citizenship. Passing a new law on the subject right now could interfere with those cases. Thus the new resolution, which is only about McCain.
If the Arizonan's candidacy is ever seriously challenged in court, McCain and the he-can-be-president forces do appear to have one important ally in the immigration policy world: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Chertoff whether he had any question that McCain could be president.
"My assumption and my understanding is that if you are born of American parents, you are naturally a natural-born American citizen," Chertoff answered.
"That is mine, too," said Leahy.
So everyone appears to agree. Let's see if any legislation gets passed.
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