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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

U.S. Senate Forgetting One Thing on START - the Constitution

As Andrew McCarthy details, U.S. Senators are talking back and forth about various provisions to the awful new START treaty, when it's all for naught.

It is thus eminently understandable that senators concerned about our security should want New START drastically altered. The Constitution, however, does not permit them to do it themselves. Article II’s treaty clause quite clearly empowers the president alone to make treaties. The Senate’s limited roll is to provide the president with its advice and to decide whether to consent — meaning the senators get to counsel President Obama on how to deal with the Russians, and they get to say no or yes to the deal the president has struck.

They do not get to rewrite the deal, and trying to do so is worse than an empty gesture — it is a feint. Senatorial treaty amendments, all of which Democrats have voted down so far, would be of no legal consequence even if they passed. The reason is simple: They would not be the deal to which the Russians agreed with President Obama. A treaty is an agreement between the United States and another country. It is not an agreement between the president and the Senate to ignore the language the president and another country have endorsed.

And of course, it also ignores the fact that the Russians have already plainly said the treaty means that the U.S. will be prohibited from any missile defense shields at home or abroad. McCarthy's solution is simple:

The Republicans’ choice is an easy one here: Block New START and tell President Obama to get back to them when he has in hand a formal treaty that is consistent with his letter. The question is: Why are Republicans turning something so easy into a nail-biter?

Unfortunately, that's true of everything being crammed into this lame duck Congress before the conservatives come to town. (Lame duck Congresses usually do not try to try this garbage...)