By Cliff Kincaid
The liberal Brookings Institution has come up with a controversial way to get costly and unpopular treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate. Their answer is to bypass the constitutional requirement that treaties obtain two-thirds of the vote of the Senate before passage by redefining the treaties as statutes. Then, they would only need a bare majority for passage in both Houses of Congress, which just happen to be controlled by Democrats.
Such an approach would mean quicker and easier passage of controversial and expensive measures that, if debated as treaties in the Senate, might take too long and upset and alarm too many Americans.
By submitting a new global warming treaty as a statute, the Brookings scholars argue, the Congress can act more quickly on the measure.
They specifically cite a U.N. climate conference scheduled for December, â€œwhen the international community is scheduled to gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.â€ The new agreement that comes out of this, they suggest, should be a statute, not a treaty, even though the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was a treaty.
Brookings scholars William J. Antholis and Nigel Purvis say that the U.S. must quickly transform its domestic and international energy policy and come into line with international demands. â€œTo reclaim global leadership, the United States must show the world proof that it has the political will to curb greenhouse gases,â€ they say.
The â€œpolitical willâ€ would be a power grab by Obama and his liberal allies in Congress. Left unsaid is the fact that this is obviously a way to cut conservative Republican Senators out of the process and forge a bare majority of Senators in favor of controversial treaties.
They say that â€œ...in consultation with Congress, the president would decide that future climate and energy agreements are to be approved by the United States by statute rather than as treaties.â€ In other words, Obama would decide, after getting the approval of leading Democrats in Congress, that he wonâ€™t submit the new U.N. climate treaty as a treaty. Instead, he would submit it as just a statute. This would obviously make passage much easier.
They argue that all of this can be accomplished under the rubric of a new â€œClimate Protection Authorityâ€ that Obama should adopt.
â€œDomestically, the presidentâ€™s public approval and congressional majorities may never be as high,â€ they note, in an obvious reference to Obamaâ€™s Democratic edge in both congressional bodies.
The implication is that Obama has to act now, bypassing Senate conservatives, especially Republicans, by implementing the â€œClimate Protection Authorityâ€ and then submitting â€œfuture climate and energy agreementsâ€ as statutes rather than as treaties.
It must be done now, rather than later, the Brookings scholars argue, because the prospect of â€œregulating greenhouse gases could fade if the economy continues to worsen.â€
In other words, expensive and costly prohibitions of energy use might be tougher to impose if peoplesâ€™ living and working conditions continue to deteriorate.
This approach is needed, they argue, because other nations â€œdistrust our treaty-making process.â€ They explain, â€œThese countries are reluctant to make politically difficult concessions only to see the United States stay out of the agreement in the end.â€
Translated into common language, this means that the treaty process takes too long and the treaty may ultimately be rejected by Senators reacting to popular pressure.
Antholis is Managing Director of the Brookings Institution, while Purvis, a former State Department official, is a Nonresident Brookings Scholar on Environment and Development and Foreign Policy.
Purvis also runs a group, Climate Advisers, dedicated to â€œshaping the low carbon economy.â€ Its website declared, â€œInternationally, we have strong ties to government officials in the worldâ€™s major economies and multilateral institutions.â€
The firm is dedicated to helping clients, which are not named, to developing â€œprofitable strategiesâ€ and identifying â€œconcrete investment opportunities in rapidly growing international markets for carbon-denominated securities.â€
So he has a vested financial interest in seeing the theory of man-made global warming imposed on the U.S. and the world.
Arguing for the abandonment of the constitutional requirement that treaties get two-thirds approval, they explain, â€œStatutes require a majority in both houses of Congress, whereas treaties require two-thirds of only the Senate. Federal courts have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of bicameral statutory approval of international pacts. In fact, the United States enters into more international agreements this way than by treaty, including some arms control agreements and environmental pacts and almost all trade deals.â€
This point is at least partly true. For example, President Clinton submitted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a statute, not a treaty, after he realized that he didnâ€™t have the two-thirds vote in the Senate to pass it.
This logic, of course, might be applied to other controversial treaties, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Criminal Court.
Will Obama do it? With the backing of a major liberal think tank with Democratic Party connections like Brookings, it might be tempting, even irresistible.
Susan Rice, Obamaâ€™s close foreign policy adviser and now his U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., was a senior fellow at Brookings from 2002 to 2009.
The head of Brookings, former Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott, is a proponent of â€œglobal governanceâ€ who recently told the German Der Spiegel magazine that Obama attempted â€œto shift from an American identity to a global oneâ€ when he made that Berlin speech in which â€œhe called himself a citizen of the world.â€
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.