The selection of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state reveals that President-elect Barack Obama does not limit his lack of appreciation for the Constitution to just the First and Second Amendments. While there has been plenty of analysis focused on whether or not this is a good political decision, the choice may actually reveal more about Obama’s respect or disrespect for the Constitution than about his political judgment.
The Emoluments Clause in Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution provides: “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 encreased during such time.” On January 4, 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13454, which increased the “Emoluments” (salary) of the secretary of state position. Hillary Clinton, as an elected senator from New York at the time and with a current term of office that runs through the end of 2010, would seem to fall clearly within the definition of a “senator” under this clause.
Clinton’s appointment to the “civil Office” of secretary of state constitutes an appointment to an office for which “the Emoluments whereof” shall have been increased during the time for which she was elected to serve as Senator. The plain language of the Emoluments Clause would thus appear to legally bar her appointment, assuming the Constitution matters to the next president.