Republican senators send embarrassingly mistaken letter to Iran in effort to nix nuclear treaty
In an effort organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (above) of Arkansas, a group of 47 Republican senators have signed a letter to leaders of Iran warning them against approving any treaty with the Obama administration on Iran’s nuclear program.
The letter is ill-advised on several counts, including the chance that it may actually encourage the Iranians to cut a deal while Obama is still president. Then, too, the letter offers a mistaken reading of the U.S. Constitution and the rules of the U.S. Senate.
Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the letter as “embarrassing,” because it’s technically wrong, as we see HERE:
The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”
Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post adds this:
Whatever its effects in Washington, the letter is almost farcically condescending in word and tone. Iran’s leaders are well aware of how the United States works. The country’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spent the better part of a decade as the Iranian envoy to the United Nations; like many others in the Iranian cabinet, he was partly educated in the United States.