Retreating from Responsibility
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
September 10, 2015
I rise to express my deep disappointment in the decision by the House leadership to back off from a direct vote on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran Nuclear Accord as provided under the Corker Act.
Clearly the administration has not complied with the requirements of this act to provide Congress with the full text of its agreement with Iran, most specifically the side deals referenced in the agreement between Iran and the IAEA.
House Resolution 411, that declares the administration out of compliance with the Corker Act, is well-founded.
But this is not a valid reason to delay a vote on a resolution disapproving the agreement, as specified in Corker and promised by the House Leadership for the last six weeks.
H. Res. 411 rightly disputes September 17th as the deadline for congressional action to stop this treaty from taking effect, because of the Administration’s failure to disclose these details and I support that resolution. But it cannot authoritatively settle this dispute. That leaves the deadline as an open question and this House must not let that deadline pass without definitive action as provided under the Corker Act.
I opposed that act because it guts the Treaty Clause of the Constitution that requires treaties to be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the U.S. Senate. Despite the President’s contention that this is an agreement and not a treaty – the fact that it explicitly modifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty makes it obvious that it requires Senate ratification.
Unfortunately, the Congress overwhelmingly approved the Corker Act, establishing a very different framework with respect to this particular treaty. Instead of a 2/3 vote of the Senate to ratify it, Corker in essence requires 2/3 of both houses to reject it through a Resolution of Disapproval – an almost impossible threshold. But these are the rules that Congress made and must now deal with.
Under the Corker Act the Resolution of Disapproval is the specific legal act required to reject this treaty. This is what the leadership had promised the House would vote on this week. Until yesterday.
Now, we are to vote on a bill to approve the treaty which is expected to be voted down. This is designed to have no legal effect, but merely to give members political cover.
Thus, the House will have failed to take action on a Resolution of Disapproval under Corker by the disputed September 17th deadline. On that deadline, the President will declare victory, implement the treaty, and the Congress will be left sputtering. The world will correctly interpret this dereliction as a capitulation by the House to this treaty. And years from now, maybe, possibly, the courts will intervene to declare the President’s action illegal. Or maybe not.
Mr. Speaker, the House is right to dispute the September 17th deadline, because clearly the President did not comply with the provisions of Corker and provide the full text of the side agreements to the Congress.
But the House is dead wrong to refuse to take action on the Resolution of Disapproval prior to the disputed deadline. The House must speak clearly, unambiguously and according to the provisions of the Corker Act that Congress enacted in May. Once it has taken that action, it can still dispute whether the President’s submission meets the requirements of Corker – but must not leave this momentous question dangling in dispute and unresolved.
The argument we hear for this course is that the Senate is unlikely to take up a Resolution of Disapproval; therefore we should hold the President to the letter of Corker with respect to submitting language. What the Senate does is up to the Senate. But for OUR part, the House has a moral obligation to act within the UNDISPUTED time frame to legally reject this dangerous agreement.
There is little doubt that this treaty will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East – the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already made that abundantly clear. There is little doubt that it is unverifiable. There is no doubt that it will release $150 billion of frozen assets to Iran with which to finance its terrorist operations and continue its nuclear research.
I fear this agreement may be just as significant to the fate of the 21st Century as the Munich Agreement was to the 20th Century. The American people and the world deserve a clear, unambiguous and INDISUPTABLE act of the House to repudiate it.
What the House leadership is now pursuing falls far short of this moral imperative.