Sir Ted May Be Unconstitutional

Is Sir Ted's knighthood unconstitutional?

The naysayers point to Article I Section 9 of the Constitution, which says “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” 

Strict translation: You can’t be a U.S. senator and a knight. But don't expect a serious constitutional challenge ahead.

Even academics who study constitutional law were caught off guard on Thursday when the question was posed regarding Sen. Ted Kennedy's knighthood.

“Well, I haven’t thought about it but it does seem that way,” said Susan Low Bloch, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in constitutional law. “I would think that as an abundance of caution, if I were Kennedy’s staff, I would ask for congressional approval and I’m sure they would approve it.”

This obscure section of the Constitution was written at a time when the newly formed United States wanted to make sure its new leaders weren't cavorting with the monarchy and taking on royal titles from its former oppresser.

But Mark Heibrun, a partner at Jenner and Block and a specialist in Article I of the constitution said the clause “without the consent of Congress” makes all the difference .

“Those are the key words,” Heilbrun said. "I think Congress can do anything they want here but I wouldn’t expect it to even go that far."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement of Kennedy's knighthood on Wednesday scored the “biggest applause line from both sides of the aisle,” Heilbrun said.

“Kennedy has a lot of admirers and it would be crazy and unpopular to procedurally block this,” Heilbrun added. "How horrible would it be for the Republican Party to do?”

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