Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday that the nuclear-weapons agreement the Obama administration is trying to negotiate with Iran–where the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is supreme leader and commander in chief–will be an agreement “between leaders of a country” and will not be a “legally binding plan.”
Kerry also expressed his belief that the U.S. Congress will have no authority to modify such a deal.
In listing the powers of the president, the Constitution says, in Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2: “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
But Kerry said the nuclear deal with Iran will not be a treaty. He also noted that the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.
Additionally, Kerry expressed his doubt that any future president would dare to nullify the non-legally-binding, non-treaty deal President Obama cuts with the Iranian leader so long as it is working and the Chinese, Russian, British, French and German governments (who are working along with the administration to negotiate such a deal) still back it.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has twice testified in Congress that Iran’s supreme leader-the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei-will personally decide whether Iran builds a nuclear weapon.
Kerry made his declarations about what he understands to be Congress’s lack of authority to in any way alter a hoped-for nuclear deal with Iran in response to an open letter that 47 senators sent to the Iranian government.
That letter, put together by Sen. Tom Cotton (R.-Ark.), said: “[W]e are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution-the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal office-which you should consider as negotiations progress.
“First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote,” said the senator’s letter. “A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).
“Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators said.
The letter then pointed out that while the Constitution limits a president to two 4-year terms–meaning Obama must leave office in two years’ time–it allows senators to serve unlimited 6-year terms.
“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.”
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