Over at the Originalism Blog, Mike Ramsey and Seth Barrett Tillman have been debating whether House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress is unconstitutional. See also the posts by David Bernstein and Peter Spiro.
Here I do not want to take a position on the issue, but just to note some interpretive moves that Mike and Seth make concerning the Receive Ambassadors Clause, which provides that the President “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.”
Seth argues for a strict reading of ambassador and public minister. He argues that Netanyahu is neither an ambassador nor a public minister. An ambassador has a meaning that excludes heads of government and other public ministers extends only to “diplomatic officials having lesser status or rank than ‘Ambassadors.’” He supports this reading of other public ministers with various other clauses that seem to suggest this reading of other public Ministers. See Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 (referring to “Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls” as under the scope of the President’s appointment power). See also Article 3, Section 2, Clauses 1 and 2 (similar as to judicial power). As a reading of the language, Seth’s argument here is quite plausible.