March 4, 2015
Constitution Calls for “Advice and Consent”
By Mike McManus
U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall have Power by and with the
Advice and Consent of the Senate to make Treaties, provided that two-thirds of
the Senators present concur.”
Why then is the President negotiating a treaty with Iran that he does not plan
to take to the Senate for ratification?
This week all eyes were upon Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address
to Congress in which he warned that the proposed treaty “doesn’t block Iran’s
path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb….It’s a very bad deal. We’re
better off without it.”
He claimed the deal “has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast
nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions in about a decade,” he said to
“We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation d
terror,” sparking a standing ovation.
The President, who pointedly did not watch the speech, but read it afterward,
told the press, “The alternative that the prime minister offers is no deal, in
which case Iran will immediately begin once again pursuing its nuclear program.”
Seated in the Oval Office with his new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Obama
delivered a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal of Netanyahu’s case: “On the core
issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which
would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action
in the region, the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.
On the same day Secretary of State John Kerry met for five hours with Iranian
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Switzerland. Presumably, they came to
some sort of an agreement, because Kerry immediately flew to Saudi Arabia as the
first stop around the more friendly Arab world to describe the treaty’s terms.
The outlines of the terms being negotiated are beginning to surface. Off the
record, “U.S. officials” say that they are offering a reduction in
Congressionally-imposed sanctions on Iran in exchange for a rollback of the
suspect Iranian program. The Administration opposes any additional sanctions
favored by some in Congress.
As a condition for the talks, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of highly
enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon. The terms would require
inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, limits on the type and
number of centrifuges needed for enrichment, and require Iran to continue
turning uranium into rods used for civilian nuclear power or sending the
material to Russia.
The deal involves Iran, the United States, Russia, France, China, Great Britain
and Germany. Obama asserted that Iran must agree to a verifiable halt of at
least 10 years of sensitive nuclear work.
However, only last week Kerry told Congress that a negotiated agreement should
not go through a “formal approval process” on Capitol Hill.
Why not? The Constitution clearly calls for it.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
has introduced legislation that would force the Administration to submit any
nuclear deal with Iran for congressional approval.
Kerry disagreed, saying “I believe this falls squarely within the executive
power of the President of the United States in the execution of American foreign
How convenient for Mr. Obama.
“I have repeatedly said that I would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” Obama
said Tuesday. “But if we’re successful in negotiating, then, in fact, this will
be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Nothing else comes close. Sanctions won’t do it. Even military action would not
be as successful as the deal we have put forward.”
If he is so confident, why not submit the treaty to the Senate?
Netanyahu argues that any deal should eliminate all of Iran’s centrifuges and
related components needed to make a nuclear bomb. He also questions the 10-year
horizon of the treaty. Those are reasonable points of view that the Senate
However, why did Netanyahu bypass meeting with Obama and the Administration and
agree to speak only to the Republican Congress?
Clearly, he relished posturing before a conservative U.S. Congress just two
weeks before his own re-election.
However, that is no reason for Congress not to insist on its Constitutional duty
to offer Advice and Consent to any treaty negotiated by the President.
Congressional sentiment to do so is rising.
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