Sep 11 2015
Yesterday Senate Democrats blocked the Senate from voting on the Iranian nuclear deal, but had we been allowed to vote on the deal, I would have proudly voted against it.
The agreement struck by the Obama administration and the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a bad deal for global security, a bad deal for our allies and a bad deal for the American people. And that's why, without the support of the American people or the consent of their elected representatives in Congress, this deal is nothing more than a political agreement between President Obama and the leaders of Iran.
When Secretary Kerry testified before the House of Representatives in August, Congressman Reid Ribble, R-Wis., asked him why the Obama administration did not consider the Iran deal to be a treaty.
This was Secretary Kerry's response: "Well Congressman, I spent quite a few years trying to get a lot of treaties through the United States Senate, and frankly, it's become physically impossible. That's why. Because you can't pass a treaty anymore."
This is indefensible.
Secretary Kerry's appeal to expedience shows either an ignorance of — or a disdain for — both principle and precedent.
The Senate has not lost the ability to ratify treaties. No, the Senate is perfectly capable of ratifying treaties, as it did 160 times during the George W. Bush administration. It's just reluctant to ratify unpopular treaties that undermine U.S. interests.
From the Obama administration's perspective, this is a problem with the Senate. But from the Constitution's perspective, this is the purpose of the Senate. And it's exactly why the Framers included the Senate in the treaty-making process.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states 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.''
The sharing of the treaty-making power between the executive and the Senate is not a quirk. Nor is it optional. It is a constitutional command. Both branches are essential.
In "The Federalist" Alexander Hamilton defended the sharing of treaty-making power between the executive and the Senate. He wrote,
The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of [the] President of the United States.
Of course, not all international agreements are treaties — and those that aren't do not need legislative consent in order to go into effect.
But historically, agreements that make long-term commitments or include significant changes to the United States' relationship with another country have been considered treaties and submitted to the Senate for approval.
As I see it, the Iran deal fits both of these categories. The terms of the deal purport to extend well beyond President Obama's remaining time in office. And, according to the administration's own reckoning, this agreement will fundamentally alter the relationship between the United States and Iran.
It appears that this will not be the last time Obama ignores the Constitution's requirement to coordinate and cooperate with the Senate in international negotiations. Later this year the Obama administration will negotiate a major international climate change agreement — what will be known as the Paris Protocol.
Already the administration has indicated that it does not intend to submit the Protocol to the Senate for ratification — even though the agreement would call for a significant expansion of the already-broad powers of our federal regulatory regime.
It would empower unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to seize even more control over the American energy sector and insert themselves ever further into the everyday lives of the American people.
On account of its expected size, scope and effect on the American economy, failure to submit the Paris Protocol to the Senate as a treaty would be an unprecedented and dangerous abuse of executive power.
Now is the time to make clear — to the White House and to the American people — that the Senate understands, and plans to defend, its rightful role in the treaty-making process.