There was Secretary of State John Kerry taking a much deserved Victory Lap as he announced that the administration had achieved the two thirds majority required to pass the treaty with Iran that the vast majority of Americans craved. Oh wait, they only got 34 votes in the Senate out of 100. According to the latest Q-Poll 55% of Americans oppose this agreement vs. 25% support. We’re confused. How does something like this happen? Well the administration says it’s just an executive agreement, but aren’t really major agreements between the U.S. and other countries by definition treaties? More importantly who gets to decide? The President says he gets to decide just like he could tell the congress when it is in session or not. That’s his opinion but that’s all it is. The courts for instance held that congress not the President determines when it is in session. So why didn’t Senate just tell the President that it is a treaty and he needs two thirds? Surely they are on solid constitutional grounds. As we read Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. it basically states
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….
Could anyone imagine Wilson telling the Senate that he bound us to the League Nations because it wasn’t a treaty so he didn’t need their two thirds majority. Reagan doing the same with Nuclear Arms deals with Russia. How about Clinton and NAFTA? Sure would’ve made a president’s job a lot easier. The Senate had the right to demand the deal be presented as what they thought it was, a treaty. We are told by our betters that couldn’t happen, but why not?
All the Senate Majority Leader had to do was intimate that he would attach this to the next crucial spending bill. But wouldn’t this be filibustered. Again the Leader could’ve indicated that the Republicans would do away with the filibuster in any case where he felt the Senate’s Constitutional Prerogatives were threatened. After all then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did just that in order to get the Obama administrations judges through. At least this would’ve been on solid constitutional grounds with maybe even bipartisan support. The house would’ve also passed the bill and the President would either have accepted or vetoed the bill shutting down the affected parts of government. The conventional wisdom is Republicans always lose in a government shutdowns. It would’ve been suicide.
Maybe but in this instance probably not. They would be standing on a solid constitutional grounds with the support of a solid majority of the people. In history going back even to Charles II of England, the legislative branch has withheld money where the executive branch’s foreign endeavors were not to it’s liking. Charles would’ve backed France but Parliament cut him off. The use of the power of the purse is well established and is basic to constitutional government. When a President is seen as overstepping, it doesn’t go well for him. This is especially true of separation of power issues. Remember Franklin Roosevelt packing the Supreme Court. And he was a far more popular than Obama. Does anyone really think this deal would’ve stood up under the intense scrutiny it would’ve received as the reason for a shutdown? Playing hardball could’ve avoided what most think is a horrible agreement. Republicans and like minded Democrats could’ve won this most important battle.
So why didn’t this happen? The Republicans simply lack courage. The voters gave them control of both houses of congress in hopes they’d blunt the Presidents high handed actions. In this case somehow under our brilliant Republican leadership both political and intellectual, we went from the President needing two thirds of the Senate to needing only 34. You can’t make up a scenario of greater ineptitude and this on an agreement that threatens our national security.
Is it any wonder Trump is riding high? Democrats will do just about anything to get their way. Just remember how we got Obamacare. The President throws out executive actions left and right daring the Republicans to do something. Even on something this vital to our and our friends security, Republicans couldn’t go to the wall. No wonder people are looking to someone that looks like he or she has a backbone. Instead of heeding our rapidly growing disillusionment, we have Republican intellectuals such as Wall street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, lecturing us as he did yesterday, “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.” That’s it, Don’t mention the enormous failures of McConnell and Corker and the rest of the Republican leaders, just insult a large and growing number both in and out of the Republican Party.
What we stand for really boils down to what we’re willing to fight for. For instance, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says he’s against this deal but did absolutely nothing to rally other Democrats to oppose it He really wasn’t against the deal because he failed to actually fight it. Just another phony. But what are the Republicans willing to fight for if not this? Maybe Bret and his ilk will look down and favor us with an answer.