July 20, 2015
Obama Lights Firestorm on Capitol Hill – Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)
- The Obama administration’s determination to take the Iran deal to the UN Security Council before Congress votes on the agreement has set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill, with leading Democrats joining Republicans in calling on the President to wait.
- On Thursday, Sen. Ben Cardin, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined the Republican chair of the committee, Sen. Bob Corker, in calling on the White House to hold its horses at the UN until Congress votes. On Friday, the House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said: “I agree with Senators Cardin and Corker that the UN Security Council should wait to move ahead with a resolution implementing parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action until after Congress has completed its review of the agreement with Iran.”
- If the Administration decides to press forward at the Security Council, the White House could face a serious revolt. if the President does an end run to the Security Council, many of the waverers will oppose him on procedural grounds. Voting to uphold the powers of Congress is much easier for Democrats than voting against the President on an important foreign policy issue.
- Given the length of this negotiation process and the enormous stakes involved, the Iran agreement really ought to have been framed as a treaty. The President knew very well that he could never get a two-thirds vote in the Senate required for a treaty, and he framed the deal as an executive agreement to avoid exactly the scrutiny and vote that the Constitution requires.
- The precedent he is setting changes the Constitution, essentially abrogating the treaty power of Congress any time a President can get a Security Council resolution to incorporate the terms of an executive agreement.
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University.