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Under the United States Constitution, only Congress has the power to spend the nation’s money. It does so through bills that authorize federal funding, including the pay of federal employees. Thus, Congress sets the salary of federal officials including the President and the Secretary of State, which is a Cabinet-level official.
Condoleeza Rice’s Salary
By the end of her term as Secretary of State in 2009, Condoleeza Rice earned an annual salary of $191,300. Her salary had been $186,600 in 2007 when it was increased to the higher level as part of an act of Congress. In both years she made more than a member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, who received $165,200 in 2007.
Hillary Clinton’s Salary
Hillary Clinton is the 67th U.S. Secretary of State, but might be the first ever to be paid less than her predecessor. The salary of the Secretary of State was decreased in late 2008 after Barack Obama won the presidential election and suggested he would appoint Clinton as his Secretary of State. Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed a bill that reduced the position’s salary by $4,700 back to the 2007 level of $186,600 per year.
The Emoluments Clause
The reason Hillary Clinton’s salary had to be reduced was because of Article I, section 6 of the Constitution. Called the Emoluments Clause, it states that no member of the House or Senate can be appointed to a position that is created or whose benefits were increased during her time in Congress. Because Condoleeza Rice’s salary as Secretary of State had been increased while Clinton was a member of the Senate, a strict reading of the Emoluments Clause suggested that she might be ineligible to serve as Secretary of State.
The bill signed into law by President Bush in 2008 was the compromise solution to Clinton’s constitutional problem. Under a “no harm, no foul” type of approach, it was decided that if Clinton did not benefit from the 2007 salary increase, then she should not be barred from serving as Secretary of State. Even though the Constitution suggests ineligibility should be required, the purpose of the language was to prevent members of Congress from creating new positions or salaries to benefit their own self interest. Now that Clinton is no longer in Congress, her salary could be increased again, and future Secretaries will likely have higher salaries than Clinton.
Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.