Those of us who did not sleep through civics class probably remember that the US Senate approves treaties with a 2/3 vote. Meaning 67 senators (or two-thirds of those present) must affirmatively vote to ratify a treaty. There are those of us who paid attention in civics class, then there’s Barack Obama, who decided to conduct an “agreement” with the governments of Iran and other world powers regarding that country’s nuclear ambitions.
Whatever your opinion of the “Iran Deal” is – and whether giving people who hold weekly “Death to America” protests a path to developing a nuclear weapon is the best of ideas – is a discussion for another time. The concern we have is the process the president has used to bring about the current state of diplomatic play.
As with so many other initiatives, the president proves once again that he has no respect for the rule of law, for the Constitution he has sworn to uphold, or even basic political compromise. His administration negotiated a deal, and he took a figurative victory lap while declaring that this deal would be a path to peace.
But bypassing the elected representatives of the American people is not the right path to be on. Seeking Senate ratification requires 67 votes – meaning the president would have to subject his agreement to the Republican Senate majority for review. The same Republican Senate majority that won those elections that the president taunted them to win in 2012.
Republicans have been less than eager to voice support for the deal due to such glaring oversights as the Iranians essentially being able to self-certify that they are in compliance with the agreement. Call us crazy, but a country that is an active state-sponsor of terrorism is probably not an honest partner that should be trusted with self-certifying anything when it comes to nukes.
Rather than seeking political compromise with a majority of Senators – several of whom would need to come from the opposition party – Obama determined that the deal was an “executive agreement.” Executive agreements are essentially treaties that the executive branch pretends are not treaties for Senate review – but ARE treaties for virtually any other purpose – and would require the Senate (and House) to pass a law to void the agreement – over a presidential veto.
And voila. We have arrived at our current circumstance. Opponents of the Iran Deal in Congress and not the president are the ones who must muster a veto-proof two-third majority to disapprove the deal rather than the president being required to seek a 2/3 vote to ratify his agreement – as the Constitution requires.
If you’re of the opinion that this is somehow good policy, you probably really like Obama and really don’t like Republicans. You probably didn’t pay much attention in civics class either.
So what if a socially conservative president signed onto an international agreement to ban gay marriage or abortion in solidarity with other socially conservative South American and African countries who do not share the same beliefs that you do? You’d probably be pretty irked. (By the way, Iran would likely sign onto both of these deals too, so that should tell you something about your prospective partner in this current deal.)
Our government has a system of checks and balances that is required, not suggested, by the Constitution. The purpose is to prevent any one branch from seizing too much power. This is particularly true of an executive branch now headed by a lame duck president who will not stand for election again unless he determines that the two-term limit somehow doesn’t apply to him.
When presidents do everything they can to thwart our system of checks and balances in order to get their way, they break faith with the people they represent and the Constitution they have sworn to uphold and defend.