Joe Biden Makes a Surprisingly Good Argument for the Power of the Senate

By now you’re probably aware of the current debate over the power of the Senate in the making of treaties, and the controversy that has arisen after a group of GOP Senators wrote a letter to the government of Iran, reminding them that the President must have the Senate’s support for the treaty to be binding. We decided to share with you some information that the Weekly Standard dug up regarding a brilliant bit of commentary from Vice President (and former Senator) Joe Biden. Yes, yes I did just say “brilliant” and “Joe Biden” in the same sentence… believe me, I was just as surprised as you when I first read what he said.

Speaking about the power of the Senate when it comes to making treaties with other nations then Senator Joe Biden had this to say…

Writing in 1989 on the “constitutional partnership” between presidents and senators, then-Senator Biden invoked “the wisdom of the Founding Fathers” for a much less restrained Senate under the Constitution’s treaty power. 

“Among the Framers,” Biden argued, “it was Alexander Hamilton who, though renowned as the leading advocate of a strong presidency, stressed that it would have been ‘utterly unsafe and improper’ to entrust the power of making treaties to the president alone.” (Emphasis added.)

“The essence of the treaty power,” Biden concluded, “is that the president and the Senate are partners in the process by which the United States enters into, and adheres to, international obligations.”

If going back to 1989 is too far for you, how about just going back to 2008?

BidencrazyIn 2008 President Bush was considering signing an agreement with Iraq and without prior consent from the Senate. The very idea that President Bush would even consider such a thing sent Senator (and now VP candidate) Biden into an uproar! He wrote a very harshly worded letter to the White House demanding Bush remember who holds the real power when it comes to international negotiations!

 I write regarding the Declaration of Principles signed by you and the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on November 26, 2007, in which you committed the United States to negotiate a long-term security relationship with the Republic of Iraq…

Equally troubling is the suggestion by General Lute, your Assistant for Iraq and Afghanistan, that, in negotiating the agreement anticipated by the Declaration, your Administration does not expect to seek “formal inputs from Congress” or even engage in formal consultations with Congress.  Yet, the Declaration anticipates that the agreement would include “security commitments” to Iraq in order to “deter foreign aggression against Iraq.”  As a matter of Constitutional law, and based on over 200 years of practice, I believe that such an agreement would require Congressional authorization… 

The Constitution and our past practice clearly require that the executive and legislative branches act together in order to provide a legitimate security commitment to another country….

Such a commitment cannot be made by the Executive Branch on its own under our Constitution….

“[t]he means of a democracy are its ends; when we set aside democratic procedures in making our foreign policy, we are undermining the purpose of that policy.”  

… I would welcome a clarification from you on the scope of the agreement you are considering, and the specific security assurances and commitments that it might entail.  I would also appreciate a definitive statement from you affirming that Congress must authorize or approve any “security commitments” the United States negotiates with Iraq. 

I don’t know about you, but I think Joe Biden is right. President Obama has overstepped himself in these Iran negotiations, and it’s time he started listening to the Senate. A Senate which is overwhelmingly opposed to President Obama’s tactics and goals in the treaty process. As such, all of this effort being used to hammer out a treaty with Iran is a waste of time because the Senate disagrees with much of what the President is attempting to do!

Also, maybe the faux-outraged liberals and their mouthpieces in the media can ease up a bit on the “treason” and “sedition” talk? It’s obvious that thee same people were totally on board with Senatorial power just a few short years ago (when a Republican was President and the Senate was controlled by Democrats). To pretend that a group of Senators reminding a foreign nation how our system works is akin to sedition or treason is patently ridiculous. Maybe it’s a bit underhanded, maybe it’s a bit of a slap in the face to the President… but he kind of deserves it, doesn’t he?

He’s been circumventing the power of the legislature for a while now, and his recent negotiations with Iran, but without the advice of Congress, feels like the last straw. Republicans are tired of getting railroaded, and I think more measures like this will soon be in the offing if Obama doesn’t start respecting Congress.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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