With respect to the Iranian nuclear deal, President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), the Senate Minority Leader, have played the Republican Senators, the Senate as a whole, and, through them, the American people they represent, for fools, in at least two ways:
Given this situation, the House took the following three actions in short order:
And what could and should the Senate do?
The Senate should assert its duty under the U.S. Constitution to review all treaties. It should resolve that the Iranian nuclear deal is a treaty.
Second, it should ensure that this treaty is the subject of a vote on the merits of the treaty by exempting treaties from filibuster. This can be accomplished by a simple majority in the Senate.
Third, the Senate should vote on the merits of the treaty.
You object that the Senate is bound by the Corker-Cardin law. And I answer: The Senate is no more bound by the Corker-Cardin law than the President and Senate Reid. But much more than this, the Senate is bound by the Constitution to assert its duty under the Constitution, notwithstanding the Corker-Cardin law.
The Constitution provides, in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2: “[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…” The Corker-Cardin law is unconstitutional. The Senate cannot alienate (as in the well-known phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “inalienable rights”) this right, this duty, by:
The Corker-Cardin law is unconstitutional in all three respects.
It doesn’t matter that the Senate passed the Corker-Cardin bill by 98-1. The Senate can choose, at any time, to assert its constitutional duty. It is not the subject of waiver. It is not the subject of negotiation with the House or the President. It is not bound by an unconstitutional law. It is not bound by a 60-day time period for review under that law that supposedly ended a few days ago.
In November 2013, in the context of then-Majority Leader Harry Reid’s change in the filibuster rules to exempt judicial and executive appointments by the president, he stated, “It’s time to change the Senate, before this institution becomes obsolete.” What could make the Senate more obsolete than Senator Reid’s failure to insist that the President submit all side agreements as required by a law the President signed four months ago? Unlike Obamacare, we can assume he read it and knows its terms. What could make the Senate more obsolete than Senator Reid’s failure to allow a vote on the merits of a deal of such importance to our national security and to world peace? But even more important than this, what could make the Senate more obsolete than Senator Reid’s vote, with 97 other senators, to give up the Senate’s prerogative on treaties?
It is not too late to correct this violation of the Constitution. This Senate should correct its error and not await a future Senate to override this unconstitutional precedent.
Yes, the President will have to deal with the conflict between a Senate filibuster of an attempt vote pursuant to the Corker-Cardin law that apparently allowed the Iran nuclear deal to go forward and a Senate vote taken pursuant to the Constitution that fails to approve the treaty. Let him abide by the Constitution.
President Wilson had to deal with the Senate’s rejection of the League of Nations treaty. Wilson didn’t pretend that a multilateral treaty negotiated to preserve world peace after a world war was an executive agreement in an end-run around the Constitution he was worn to preserve, protect and defend. He submitted as a treaty to the Senate. He took his loss. He failed to save face with the European powers. President Obama can learn from him.