Over at NRO, Reihan Salam provides a link to an argument by Michael D. Ramsey, a constitutional law professor at the University of San Diego who makes the case that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unconstitutional.
Ramsey argues that its the constitutional duty of the President to “receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers” as spelled out in Article II, Section 3 of The Constitution and there is no corresponding authority for Congress to do so under Article 1, Section 8 of The Constitution. Ramsey also cites George Washington as the “sole channel of official intercourse” with foreign nations when French Ambassador Edmond Genet tried to enlist the support of Congress for France’s conflict with Britain.
Of course, the problem with the Washington-Genet argument is twofold. First, it isn’t analogous because Congress never invited Genet to address them. Second, I don’t recall the Obama Administration complaining when British Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied members of Congress to oppose sanctions against Iran. Indeed, I’m sure Obama encouraged Cameron to do so.
What I think Ramsey overlooks here is the authority of each House of Congress to “determine the rules of its proceedings” under Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution. I figured those rules would cover addresses by foreign dignitaries and indeed they do. Here’s the relevant portion of Chapter 36, Section 23 of the Deschler-Brown Precedents of the House of Representatives concerning Ceremonies for Visiting Dignitaries:
The House and Senate often adopt unanimous-consent requests to
recess to meet with the other legislative body in joint meetings in the
Hall of the House in order to hear addresses from visiting foreign
1. A joint meeting is distinguishable from a joint session, which is a
more formal occasion that is arranged by the adoption of a
concurrent resolution. Typically, joint sessions are held to
receive Presidential messages and to count the electoral votes
for the President and Vice President.
At worst, Boehner should have invited Netanyahu to a “joint meeting” rather than a “joint session” of Congress. Otherwise, Boehner is fully within his rights to invite Netanyahu or anyone else he sees fit to address members of Congress.
I mean if the Obama Administration wants to sue Boehner and Congress for its invitation to Netanyahu then fine go ahead. But somehow I don’t think the Obama Administration wants to go to court to prevent an address by one of the United States’ most stalwarts allies. But then again the Obama Administration’s chutzpah knows no bounds.
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