The PJ Tatler

What About That Time Obama, Kerry, Clinton Insisted Congress Have Say in International Agreements?

A California Democrat charged at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this morning that administration officials are “using foreign ropes to tie the hands of the United States Congress” on Iran negotiations.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) also pointed out an instance when Senate Democrats — including the current secretary of State and president — challenged the Bush administration on its ability to enact foreign agreements without the consent of Congress.

Sherman stressed it “is not the executive branch, but Congress, that has had it right for the last 15 years” on Iran sanctions, “which is why I take such offense when I hear the administration say, Congress, if we have a view, we’re interfering and undermining.”

“When you read the United States Constitution, you will see that when it comes to economic sanctions and international economics, all the power is vested in Congress except to the extent that the president negotiates a treaty that is ratified by the Senate,” he said. “Yet I fear that what the administration is doing is using foreign ropes to tie the hands of the United States Congress because the foreign minister of Iran was able to cite Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties, saying, well, the United States will be in violation of international law if Congress doesn’t do whatever the president promises Congress will do.”

Sherman said the Obama administration “feeds into that when a high administration official declares foreign policy runs through the executive branch and the president and does not go through other channels.”

“I fear that we will have a situation where the executive branch comes to us and says you have to take this action, you’re prohibited from taking that action because you’re going to hold the United States up to ridicule for being in violation of international law,” the congressman added.

He advised Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken to “look at the memo issued by the Carter Department of Justice that stated, ‘Congress may enact legislation modifying or abrogating executive agreements.'”

“And that it — if that was formally turned over to the Iranian delegation, that would get us support under Article 46 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties,” Sherman said. “I should point out for the record that, in 2007, Senator Clinton introduced, with the cosponsorships of Senator Obama and Senator Kerry, the Oversight of Iraq Agreements Act, which stated that any status of forces agreement to the United States and Iraq that was not a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate or authorized by legislation would not have the force of law and prohibited funding to implement that.”

“For the record, because I just don’t have time to give you at this moment, I’d like you to explain whether under the standards of the Obama administration the introduction of that act by those three senators constituted an interference with policy undermining President Bush’s policy, et cetera.”

Sherman pointedly told Blinken, “I fear that you have misled this committee in telling us that, once Iran has the rights of a non-nuclear state, subject to the additional protocol, that you’ll be able to stop sneakout, because you’ve said first that, well, they can’t develop a nuclear weapon because that would be illegal.”

“That’s a preposterous argument,” the congressman said. “Obviously, they’re willing to break the law.”

Blinken argued that “if Iran makes an agreement, it will make it with the full knowledge that if it violates the agreement, there will be severe consequences.”

Measures being negotiated, the deputy secretary of State said, “give us the confidence that the inspectors will have the ability to detect, in a timely fashion, any efforts by Iran to break out.”

“So you need an intrusive inspection regime, you will have it for a few years, and then, for reasons you can’t explain, the blindfolds will go on and we’ll hope that we can prevent sneakout thereafter,” Sherman retorted.

“The blindfolds won’t be on,” Blinken insisted. “They’ll be off.”