Today, we’ll examine Section 6 of Article I of the Constitution. This section sets out some benefits for and prohibitions to members of both houses of Congress.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 6. 1 The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
First, this paragraph gives Congress the authority to set the compensation of its own members in the same way it passes any other law. Some people today feel that this power has been abused and that the salaries and other perks for our legislators have become excessive. Be that as it may, Congress has certainly acted within its authority under the Constitution in establishing them.
This paragraph also protects our legislators from being detained or arrested on trumped-up charges by political opponents. The fear was that as some of them traveled from their home states through other states on their way to Congressional sessions, opponents in one of the states they traveled through might prevent them from getting there and fulfilling their duties.
It also protects them from retribution for anything they say in Congress in the course of fulfilling their duties. The founders wanted our Representatives and Senators to be free of fear of any such thing.
2 No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
This provision was put in to prevent financial hanky-panky. Without it, a member might get a bill passed to create a position on the federal payroll—or increase the pay of a position already in existence—so he could get himself appointed to that position. It also prevents double-dipping by barring a member from simultaneously holding a job on the federal payroll.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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