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Clinton nomination a Constitutional quandary

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An obscure provision in the U.S. Constitution poses a potential roadblock on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s path to becoming Secretary of State.

It turns out that the Constitution (specifically Article I, Section 6) prohibits a lawmaker from taking any goverment job for which the salary was raised during the lawmaker’s elected term. As the Washington Post and numerous bloggers have noted, this would effectively preclude Clinton from taking the State Department gig. Salaries for Cabinet secretaries have been increased twice since Clinton started her second term as the junior New York senator in January 2007: to $191,300 in January 2008 and to $196,700 this coming January.

But it turns out lawmakers already have devised a way around the sticky Constitutional quandary. They can pass a measure stipulating that Clinton will take the job at the salary that was in place when she began her current term: $186,600. There’s even a name for the workaround: “The Saxbe Fix,” so named after a similar situation in 1973 when President Nixon nominated Ohio Sen. William Saxbe to be his attorney general.

This solution likely would rub strict constitutionalists the wrong way, but look at the upside: By taking the job at a reduced salary, Clinton would be a step ahead of the game in helping her new boss fulfill a campaign pledge to cut government spending.

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