Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment
posted by Gerard Magliocca
I came across an interesting bit of trivia yesterday that I wanted to share. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment states:
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress . . . who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or an as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” [By a two-thirds vote, Congress may remove the disability.]
Now this provision was obviously directed against ex-Confederate officials. In 1919, though, the House of Representatives invoked Section Three to exclude Victor L. Berger, who was elected from Wisconsin as a Socialist. Berger was excluded because he opposed our involvement in World War I, was German, and was convicted under the Espionage Act (though that conviction was reversed by the Supreme Court). After his exclusion, Berger’s constituents elected him again, and the House excluded him again. He was elected for a third time in 1922 and was finally seated.
It’s worth noting that this means there are really four qualifications for election to Congress. There’s age, citizenship. residency, and “not being disloyal.”