The President is preparing to head to China for his final G20 summit next week, an event which always promises plenty of controversy. So what will he be doing while meeting with the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful nations? One item expected to be on the agenda is an announcement that Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to sign on to the Paris climate treaty.
Was there an amendment to the Constitution in the past few years that I missed? Entering into treaties isn’t exactly the exclusive province of the White House, or so I was assured in high school. But the administration doesn’t seem to be about to let a little thing like that slow his roll. It’s all just another executive action. (Washington Times)
The White House on Monday defended President Obama’s decision to enter into the Paris climate accord without Senate ratification but stopped short of confirming a Chinese report that he will do so this week during his trip to China.
Still, it would surprise no one if Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping were to announce the ratification of the sweeping climate change agreement before the Sunday opening of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.
White House senior adviser Brian Deese said the president has the legal authority to ratify the accord without the two-thirds Senate vote required for treaties. He said the pact negotiated by 195 countries in December is merely an “executive agreement.”
You can call it an accord or an agreement or whatever you like, but if there are multiple nations signing on to an agreement for action of any sort which would commit the United States to any policy which would keep us in compliance with it, then it’s a treaty. And the Founders were very specific in how they chose to handle the power and responsibility inherent in locking us into deals with other nations. Both the President and a significant majority of the Senate need to be in agreement. This was a serious bone of contention in the early days of the union, and even though he held some reservations, Hamilton eventually clarified the legal rationale for why both branches must be involved when he wrote Federalist 75. (Emphasis added)
Though several writers on the subject of government place that power in the class of executive authorities, yet this is evidently an arbitrary disposition; for if we attend carefully to its operation, it will be found to partake more of the legislative than of the executive character, though it does not seem strictly to fall within the definition of either of them. The essence of the legislative authority is to enact laws, or, in other words, to prescribe rules for the regulation of the society; while the execution of the laws, and the employment of the common strength, either for this purpose or for the common defense, seem to comprise all the functions of the executive magistrate. The power of making treaties is, plainly, neither the one nor the other. It relates neither to the execution of the subsisting laws, nor to the enaction of new ones; and still less to an exertion of the common strength. Its objects are CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive it from the obligations of good faith. They are not rules prescribed by the sovereign to the subject, but agreements between sovereign and sovereign. The power in question seems therefore to form a distinct department, and to belong, properly, neither to the legislative nor to the executive.
This was never intended as a subject for “executive action” in the eyes of the founders and they explained themselves in painstaking detail on that score. This administration, however, seems to care little for dusty, musty old documents written long ago, so the power of the pen and the phone must be preserved and expanded.
Rather than signing us on to a new treaty on his own, perhaps Barack Obama could make better use of his time while in China. Several senators have already urged him to take this opportunity to open a fresh dialog with the Chinese on the subject of cyber-crime and their culpability in that area. Do you suppose he’ll be working on that?
Nah. But he will have time to meet with the president of Turkey. Because… well, he’s such a good ally and all.