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March 4, 2015
Column #1,749
Constitution Calls for “Advice and Consent”
By Mike McManus

The 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 cheers.

“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 policy.”

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 should consider.

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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