The Consideration Of A Senate Resolution

Senators Say McCain Eligible For Presidential Run

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, April 30, 2008) – The Senate tonight unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that John McCain, a U.S. Senator from Arizona currently serving his fourth term in the Senate, is eligible to run for President of the United States.  McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency. 

McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 to American citizens.  In February, The New York Times published a report calling into question the legality of McCain’s presidential run based on whether he is a “natural born Citizen,” as required by the Constitution. The issue was recently analyzed by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, both of whom concluded that McCain is a natural born citizen within the meaning of the Constitution.

The bipartisan resolution was introduced on April 10 by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).  It is also supported by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).  The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs and of which Coburn is a member, unanimously reported the resolution on April 24, and the Senate swiftly passed the measure.

“This bipartisan resolution erases any doubt that Senator McCain is eligible to run for president,” said Leahy.  “The Senate was right to quickly pass this measure, and we can now put to rest any question of his eligibility.”

“There’s no question in my mind that Senator McCain is eligible to become president, and I’m proud that my colleagues in the Senate came together on this resolution to help quickly put this debate to rest,” McCaskill said.

“John McCain was born while his father was fulfilling his patriotic duty to his country.  Even though they were not standing on American soil, his father’s uniform still proudly displayed the flag of this nation.  John McCain and his family have a proven record of public service and sacrifice and I am proud to support this bipartisan resolution recognizing the fact that John McCain is a natural born citizen,” said Coburn.


McCain has served in the U.S. Congress representing Arizona in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy

Chairman, Committee On The Judiciary

On The Consideration Of A Senate Resolution

April 30, 2008


Today we are considering a bipartisan resolution to express the common sense of all in this chamber that Senator McCain is a “natural born Citizen,” as the term is used in the Constitution of the United States.  Last week the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to report this resolution to the Senate.  I urge Senators to come together to pass this bipartisan resolution without delay. 


Our Constitution contains three requirements for a person to be eligible to be President – the person must have reached the age of 35; must have resided in America for 14 years; and must be a ‘‘natural born Citizen’’ of the United States.  Certainly there is no doubt that Senator McCain is of sufficient years on this earth and in this country given that he has been serving in Washington for over 25 years.  However, some have raised the question of whether he is a “natural born Citizen” because he was born outside of the United States. 


John Sidney McCain, III, was born to American citizens on an American Naval base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936.  His father was serving in the Navy at that time. 


It is possible that at the time of our nation’s founding, the Framers of our Constitution could not imagine how pronounced our commitments overseas would become, but it would make no sense to limit the careers of children born to military families simply because they were stationed overseas.  Similarly, it would not make sense to punish children born to foreign service families or ambassadors stationed overseas or children born overseas to American missionaries.  They are all American citizens at the time of their birth. 


Numerous legal scholars have looked into the purpose and intent of the “natural born Citizen” requirement.  As far as I am aware, no one has discovered any reason to think that the Framers would have wanted to limit the rights of children born to Americans abroad or that such a limited view would serve any noble purpose enshrined in our founding document.  Based on the understanding of the pertinent sources of constitutional meaning, it is widely believed that if someone is born to American citizens anywhere in the world they are natural born citizens.


It is interesting to note that another previous presidential candidate, George Romney, was also born outside of the United States.  He was widely understood to be eligible to be President.  Senator Barry Goldwater was born in a U.S territory that later became the State of Arizona, so some even questioned his eligibility.  Certainly the millions of Americans who voted for these two Republican candidates believed that they were eligible to assume the office of the President.  The same is true today. 


Because he was born to American citizens, there is no doubt in my mind that Senator McCain is a natural born citizen.  I recently asked Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, a former Federal judge, if he had any doubts in his mind.  He did not.  


Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe also analyzed the issue and came to the same conclusion – that Senator McCain is a natural born citizen eligible to serve as President.  I ask unanimous consent that the legal analysis of Theodore Olson and Laurence Tribe be made part of the record.


Our bipartisan resolution would make it clear that Senator McCain, born on an American Naval base to U.S. citizens, is a “natural born” citizen.  We should act today on a bipartisan basis to erase any doubt that Senator McCain is eligible to run for president because of his citizenship status.


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David Carle: 202-224-3693

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