Monday, March 9, 2015

The Confederate Dunces of the Senate

Signing the Treaty of Ghent, 1815

The United States Senate has decided to allow members of the Republican persuasion to conduct American foreign policy as if precedent, history, and the law do not matter in the least:
A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran's leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama's administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.
Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber's entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
That's all well and good, but, really, you just witnessed an act of treason. It is treason to put the interests of a foreign power ahead of that of the United States. It is treason to subvert the foreign policy of the United States and undermine the actions of the President. To give Iran a reason not to agree to a treaty with the President is to give aid to the interests of that country against the United States and it harms the foreign policy goals of the Executive Branch. To give aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States constitutes treason.

These men are confederates; they have ceased to behave like American lawmakers. They are agents of the Israeli government in word and in deed. As if that wasn't a WTF moment in American history, you would have to be insane not to notice that this is one of those moments when the collective ignorance of the media is squarely to blame for people not freaking out right now.

Then there's this. Whoops!
Josh Rogin reports that a “group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.” Here is the letter. Its premise is that Iran’s leaders “may not fully understand our constitutional system,” and in particular may not understand the nature of the “power to make binding international agreements.” It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements.

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”
This is a technical point that does not detract from the letter’s message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency. (I analyzed this point here last year.) But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing.
Well, it's more than a technical point:
The Constitution provides that the president "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur" (Article II, section 2). The Constitution's framers gave the Senate a share of the treaty power in order to give the president the benefit of the Senate's advice and counsel, check presidential power, and safeguard the sovereignty of the states by giving each state an equal vote in the treatymaking process. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist no. 75, “the operation of treaties as laws, plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.” The constitutional requirement that the Senate approve a treaty with a two-thirds vote means that successful treaties must gain support that overcomes partisan division. The two-thirds requirement adds to the burdens of the Senate leadership, and may also encourage opponents of a treaty to engage in a variety of dilatory tactics in hopes of obtaining sufficient votes to ensure its defeat.
The Senate does not ratify treaties—the Senate approves or rejects a resolution of ratification. If the resolution passes, then ratification takes place when the instruments of ratification are formally exchanged between the United States and the foreign power(s).
Most treaties submitted to the Senate have received its advice and consent to ratification. During its first 200 years, the Senate approved more than 1,500 treaties and rejected only 21. A number of these, including the Treaty of Versailles, were rejected twice. Most often, the Senate has simply not voted on treaties that its leadership deemed not to have sufficient support within the Senate for approval, and in general these treaties have eventually been withdrawn. At least 85 treaties were eventually withdrawn because the Senate never took final action on them. Treaties may also remain in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for extended periods, since treaties are not required to be resubmitted at the beginning of each new Congress. There have been instances in which treaties have lain dormant within the committee for years, even decades, without action being taken.
Again, this is not about whether or not the treaty itself is a "bad deal" so much as it is about making sure that this president is not allowed to function as the actual President of the United States. This would be the end of the world if the president were a Republican. Instead, it's a half-assed trip through the fears expressed by men who have no idea how their own branch of government is supposed to function.

The voters handed the Senate to the Republican Party. The next year and half should be terrifying and horrifying all at once.

No comments:

Post a Comment