The Shame of the Senate

The Senate has a Constitutional obligation to advise and consent to treaties proposed by a President.  This duty exists for good reason.  A great deal of power was invested in the office of the Presidency by the Founding Fathers, but not with complete or unfettered trust.  Before committing the United States to any foreign entanglements, against which George Washington warned in his Farewell address, the Founders thought it wise to call together all the members of the highest legislature in the land and have them debate and consider the question.  Only if two thirds of those who could be brought together consented should the United States be bound.

On Thursday the Senate of the United States violated every part of its duty.  The filibuster of the resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal was a completion of a betrayal of duty that has been long in the making.  The unwise Corker-Cardin law wrongfully inverted the treaty approval process at a time when the deal promised by the White House was still the sunny “Framework” promised in April.  Iran protested the White House’s fact sheet on that deal at the time, claiming that the White House was lying about the terms they had agreed to accept.  It released its own fact sheet, but Washington D.C. didn’t listen.  That is too bad:  it turns out that Iran was right, and the White House was lying to Congress and the American People about many of the details of the deal.

When the final deal came out, the White House had given away more even than the Iranians claimed they had in their competing “fact sheet”:  they had given away sanctions preventing ballistic missile development and the importation of heavy weapons.  Senator Menendez noticed that even the language that remained in the deal merely “calls upon” Iran not to pursue ballistic missiles for eight years, but has no enforcement mechanism.  Iran has since confirmed his impression, and has stated its intent — while Congress was allegedly thinking carefully about this deal! — to proceed immediately with ballistic missile testing and development.

That alone should have been cause to reconsider the easy framework of Corker-Cardin.  A deal proposing to give a self-declared American enemy access to both advanced enrichment technologies and also advanced ballisitic missiles should have been subject to the full debate and consent required by the Constitution’s Article II, Section 2.

Instead, the Senate elected not to debate the deal at all.  Far from advising, it filibustered.  Far from consenting, it used a procedural maneuver to avoid taking a vote.  If there were any justice, every single Senator who voted to filibuster would be removed from office for this rank betrayal of their oath and their duty to the Constitution and the order it was intended to establish.

In fact even the easy terms of Corker-Cardin haven’t been satisfied, because the White House violated that law by failing to turn over the secret side deals as the Corker-Cardin law requires.  The White House says that it cannot turn over the deals because it has no access to them.  What that means is that the White House has agreed to a deal on nuclear technology and ballistic missiles for an enemy state without having access to the terms of the deal.  It is impossible to imagine any previous President of the United States contemplating, let alone consenting to, any such thing.

It was just such a possibility that the Founders meant to forclose with the requirement of Senatorial advice and consent.  There can be no excuses for this failure to do one of their most basic duties to the safety, indeed to the survival, of the Constitution and the Republic it establishes.  Each Senator who supported this filibuster deserves to be haunted by their betrayal of their oath and duty for as long as he or she shall live.

In the meantime, Senator Ted Cruz has proposed a means to continue the fight by calling the White House to account for its failure to obey the terms of a law that President Obama himself signed.  The law should be upheld against the will of any man, even a President.