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Clinton, Obama Sponsor McCain Citizenship Bill

7 years ago
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The question of whether Sen. John McCain is eligible for the presidency has popped up from time to time in the media and on the Internet. The controversy, such as it is, hinges on the circumstances of McCain's birth. The Constitution lays out three eligibility requirements for presidential candidates. A candidate must be at least 35 years old, a resident of the United States for at least 14 years, and must be a "natural-born citizen." McCain qualifies on all three; but some commentators have questioned whether he can be considered to have been natural-born because he was born on a U.S. Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone.

Now, however, the Senate has moved to put that minor controversy to rest. Yesterday, the Senate passed a resolution declaring that McCain is a natural-born citizen. The resolution was passed by unanimous consent. More surprising than the result, however, was the fact that the bill was written and submitted by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and co sponsored by both Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Politics makes strange bedfellows.

Legal and Constitutional scholars have said that there is little chance that McCain would be declared anything other than a natural-born citizen. The Supreme Court has held that the children of military and Foreign Service personnel stationed abroad are considered natural-born. Congress has also legislated the issue. So Clinton and Obama risked little in signing on to the resolution. Still the questions about McCain persisted.

But Obama and Clinton did not have to put their names on the Senate Resolution removing any doubt from the issue. It was a gesture of respect, and maybe a bit of good sportsmanship with a touch of good politics thrown in, for McCain's rivals to acknowledge his legitimacy to run in opposition to them. More puzzling, though, is the fact that the measure only garnered one Republican co-sponsor, McCain supporter Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

The full text of the resolution is as follows.
S. Res. 511

Whereas the Constitution of the United States requires that, to be eligible for the Office of the President, a person must be a "natural born Citizen" of the United States;

Whereas the term "natural born Citizen", as that term appears in Article II, Section 1, is not defined in the Constitution of the United States;

Whereas there is no evidence of the intention of the Framers or any Congress to limit the constitutional rights of children born to Americans serving in the military nor to prevent those children from serving as their country's President;

Whereas such limitations would be inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the "natural born Citizen" clause of the Constitution of the United States, as evidenced by the First Congress's own statute defining the term "natural born Citizen";

Whereas the well-being of all citizens of the United States is preserved and enhanced by the men and women who are assigned to serve our country outside of our national borders;

Whereas previous presidential candidates were born outside of the United States of America and were understood to be eligible to be President; and

Whereas John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That John Sidney McCain, III, is a "natural born Citizen" under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.
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