White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Monday that the GOP-majority Senate has no role in reviewing administration agreements with foreign powers.
His suggestion came at the tail-end of a press conference where Earnest repeatedly slashed at the 47 GOP senators who released a public letter on Monday to Iran’s theocracy about President Barack Obama’s secretive strategic talks with Iran’s leaders.
Senators have a constitutional duty to review treaties, and “we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” warned the GOP letter.
Earnest immediately slammed the letter. “There are other ways that Congress can and should be a part of foreign policy and the best example I can think of right now is [debating the pending] Authorization to Use Military Force,” against the Islamic State, he said. The AUMF request was sent to the Hill by Obama in February.
Congress can also play a useful role in the U.S.-Iran process by lifting economic sanctions if the Iranians progressively demonstrate their compliance with the pending Obama-Iran deal, Earnest said.
But Earnest also said the U.S.-Iran deal won’t be submitted to Congress.
Earnest’s comments are a novel reading of the Constitution, which explicitly says the Senate is responsible for reviewing and approving treaties. Article II, section 2, of the Constitution says 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 White House’s new effort to diminish the president’s effort follows his prior efforts to expand his claimed power. The claims include a presidential right to confirm nominees, to wage war in Libya, to rewrite the Obamacare health system and to establish amnesties for illegal immigrants.
The Supreme Court rejected his claimed right to confirm nominees, but has not stopped his rewriting of the Obamacare law. GOP leaders failed this month to stop his November amnesty, but a Texas judge has frozen the amnesty pending the resolution of a lawsuit by elected state officials.
Earnest’s heated rhetoric likely reflects Obama’s determination to push ahead with the secretive deal, which would reverse the United State’s post-1979 policy of containing Iran’s Shia theocracy.
Iran’s theocracy has “a path to break through that [international] isolation and they should seize it,” Obama told NPR in December 2014. “Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication … inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”