Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Saxbe fix

The Saxbe fix, or salary rollback, is a mechanism by which the President of the United States, in appointing a current or former member of the United States Congress whose elected term has not yet expired, can avoid the restriction of the United States Constitution's Ineligibility Clause. That clause prohibits the President from appointing a current or former member of Congress to a civil office position that was created, or to a civil office position for which the pay and/or benefits (collectively, "emoluments") were increased, during the term for which that member was elected until the term has expired. The rollback, first implemented by an Act of Congress in 1909, reverts the emoluments of the office to the amount they were when that member began his or her elected term.

To prevent ethical conflicts, James Madison proposed language at the Constitutional Convention that was adopted as the Ineligibility Clause after debate and modification by other Founding Fathers. Historically, a number of approaches have been taken to address the problem posed by restriction; these have included choosing another nominee, allowing the desired nominee's elected term of office to expire, ignoring the clause entirely, or reducing the offending emoluments to the level prior to when the nominee took office. Although Congress passed the mechanism reducing emoluments in 1909, the procedure was named "Saxbe fix" after Senator William Saxbe, who was confirmed as Attorney General in 1973 after Congress reduced the office's salary to the level it had been before Saxbe's term commenced. The Saxbe fix has subsequently become relevant as a successful—though not universally accepted—solution for appointments by presidents of both parties of sitting members of the United States Congress to the United States Cabinet. Members of Congress have been appointed to federal judgeships without any fix being enacted; court challenges to such appointments have failed.

There were four Saxbe fixes for appointees of presidents prior to Barack Obama. The first two rollbacks concerned appointees of Republicans William Howard Taft and Richard Nixon, and the last two were implemented for appointees of Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Congress approved two more in the weeks preceding Obama's presidency in preparation for his designated Cabinet nominees. Since the 1980s, Saxbe fixes have only been temporary, extending to the conclusion of the term for which the sitting member of Congress was elected. The Clause has received relatively little scholarly or judicial attention; the sparse extant debate centers on whether the reduction of salary satisfies the Ineligibility Clause, or whether affected members of Congress are ineligible for appointment in spite of the reduction.

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