Senate Resolution 511--Recognizing that John Sidney McCain III, is a Natural Born Citizen

Floor Speech

Date: April 10, 2008
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Elections



Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today I join Senator Claire McCaskill in introducing a resolution to express the common sense of everyone here that Senator McCain is a ``natural born Citizen,'' as the term is used in the Constitution of the United States. 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 pundits have raised the question of whether he is a ``natural born Citizen'' because he was born outside of the official borders 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. 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 unearthed any reason to think that the Framers would have wanted to limit the rights of children born to military families stationed 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.

I expect that this will be a unanimous resolution of the Senate and I thank the Senator from Missouri for working with me on this.

I ask unanimous consent that the relevant excerpt from the Judiciary Committee hearing where Secretary Chertoff testified be made a part of the RECORD.

Excerpt of Secretary Chertoff Testimony From April 2, 2008

Chairman LEAHY. We will come back to that. I would mention one other thing, if I might, Senator Specter. Let me just ask this: I believe--and we have had some question in this Committee to have a special law passed declaring that Senator McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal, that he meets the constitutional requirement to be President. I fully believe he does. I have never had any question in my mind that he meets our constitutional requirement. You are a former Federal judge. You are the head of the agency that executes Federal immigration law. Do you have any doubt in your mind--I mean, I have none in mine. Do you have any doubt in your mind that he is constitutionally eligible to become President?

Secretary CHERTOFF. My assumption and my understanding is that if you are born of American parents, you are naturally a natural-born American citizen.

Chairman LEAHY. That is mine, too. Thank you.