Constitutional Law

Senate Says McCain is 'Natural Born,' Hence He Can Be President


Although the U.S. Senate unanimously voted earlier this week that John McCain is a natural-born U.S. citizen, that nonbinding resolution is not the final answer in a legal debate that includes at least three lawsuits challenging the presumed Republican nominee’s qualification to serve as president.

Born in a U.S. military hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, McCain, 72, could be the catalyst for the first definitive U.S. Supreme Court ruling about exactly what the “natural born” citizenship requirement in Article II of the U.S. Constitution actually means, according to the Washington Post.

“According to a State Department manual, U.S. military installations abroad cannot be considered ‘part of the United States’ and ‘a child born on the premises of such a facility is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth,’ ” the newspaper reports. However, Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe says the manual is an “opinion” rather than binding legal precedent, according to the Post.

Although a number of other legal scholars apparently think McCain is a natural-born citizen, too, some are calling for the issue to be definitively resolved sooner rather than later.

“Imagine what would happen if the courts were to overturn an election simply based on eligibility. It would be a disaster,” says Sarah Duggin, a Catholic University associate law professor. “After what happened in 2000, people would completely lose faith in the electoral process.”

Additional coverage:

New York Times: “Senators Cross Party Lines to Remove Doubt on McCain’s Presidential Eligibility”

New York Times: “McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out”

NBC News: “McCain’s citizenship called into question”

Legal Theory Blog: “McCain, Natural Born Citizens, and Originalism”

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