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Sunday, December 31, 2023

Original Meaning of the Disqualification Clause

Steven Portnoy at ABC:
In 2024, the originalists on the Supreme Court will likely seek to determine whether the ratifiers could have had it in mind 158 years ago that Sec. 3 might not only be applied to the "late insurrection," as the House-passed version originally had it, but also to any other rebellion that might later take place.

But originalists might take note of what Sen. Peter Van Winkle of West Virginia said as he sought to have the threshold for congressional amnesty in Howard's version lowered to a simple majority, rather than two-thirds.

"This is to go into our Constitution and to stand to govern future insurrection as well as the present; and I should like to have that point definitely understood," Van Winkle said at the time.

It's also worth noting that there was just a single reference in the Senate debate to the fact that the president and vice president were not explicitly mentioned in Howard's draft as "officer(s) of the United States," the way members of Congress and state officials had been itemized in the text. Would the disqualification clause of the amendment not cover the top posts in the executive branch?

"Why did you omit to exclude them?" asked Maryland Democratic Sen. Reverdy Johnson.

Maine's Lot Morrill jumped in to clarify.

"Let me call the Senator's attention to the words 'or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States,'" Morrill said, ending the discussion on that point.