Hatch's "Foreign-Born President" amendment
By Paul M. Weyrich
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed to amend the Constitution to allow naturalized Americans to become President. If his amendment were adopted any person who had been a
Perhaps no better person could refute the proposed Hatch Amendment than the late Balint Vazsyoni, Director of the Center for the American Founding. I had the honor of knowing this gentleman, a concert pianist who came to our country from his native
A hearing by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution was held on July 24, 2000 to review amending the Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to become President. Vazsyoni both testified in person before the Subcommittee and submitted prepared remarks.
Vasyoni noted that the Founding Fathers created three branches of government and placed no stricture requiring citizenship to become a member of the Legislative or Judicial Branch. However, power is centralized in one person in the Executive Branch. Vazsyoni insisted that he did not view it to be an "excessive requirement" to have a native-born American to hold that one office.
In his prepared remarks, Vazsyoni stated: "It is well known that the Founding Fathers were mindful in the extreme of foreign influences, and the dangers therein to the Republic. While experience has shown that a native-born Chief Executive is not necessarily immune to foreign influence, the odds are certainly more favorable if the president [sic] is an American plain and simple, who has never been, and is not at the time of taking office, anything else."
The proposed Hatch Amendment comes at a time when there is a great deal of speculation about the political future of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. No doubt some Americans consider him to be an "exceptional" leader given his dramatic rise in politics. He would not be permitted to hold the Presidency – assuming the Hatch Amendment were not ratified – but certainly would be eligible to be a United States Senator. However, many people would cite him as a case that demonstrates the unfairness of the Constitutional restriction.
In his prepared remarks Vaszyoni made very clear that "the laws of this country never have been written with the exceptions in mind. Among other things, the Framers of the Constitution distinguished themselves by writing few laws, and employing language at one broad and concise, so as to be applicable to all circumstances at all times."
Many would be right to harbor suspicion that a foreign-born President would tilt
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a proponent of amending the Constitution along the lines recommended by Senator Hatch, commented in a December 12, 2004 Miami Herald story that the Constitution "tells immigrants that they are somehow flawed."
From a world view
Senator Hatch is quite serious about his proposal and in fact one Democrat staff member of the Senate Judiciary Committee told me that the Senator met with his Democratic Judiciary Committee on that committee to discuss combining his amendment with a removal of the two-term limit on the Presidency. The thinking is that the addition of removing the two-term bar on the Presidency would be a sweetener to Democrats who would see it as a way to put Bill Clinton -- an electable Democrat with proven national popularity -- back in the White House.
The Senator's press spokesperson denied that the Senator has given serious thought or even entertained combining the two measures. He could not say with complete certainty that Senator Hatch has not been in a meeting in which the subject was broached by Senate Democrats, inasmuch as meetings between members of opposite parties occur all the time in the Senate.
Ratifying a Constitutional Amendment is a lengthy procedure. My colleague,
There are some changes that were important to the Constitution. Constitutional Amendments deserve serious review on a case-by-case basis. In this case, however, there is no need to amend the Constitution.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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