Tuesday, April 26, 2016
The Senate Must Confront the President on the Paris Climate Treaty
On Friday April 22, Earth Day, the White House will purport to commit the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement. The Obama administration claims the agreement, which it describes as “the most ambitious climate agreement in history,” is less of a treaty than its two apparently less ambitious predecessor agreements, which no one dared state were not treaties.
Congress has yet to challenge this claimed non-treaty status, or the administration’s contention that the executive branch can unilaterally determine whether an agreement is a treaty. Congress needs to challenge this power grab, and soon.
To date, whether an international agreement qualifies as a treaty has been determined not by executive fiat, but by the agreement’s substance, through an “advice and consent” process guided by the plain language of the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 vests the treaty-making power jointly in the two political branches of government. Nowhere does it suggest that one branch can waive the other’s role.
While some have floated the idea that the president could simply install a Supreme Court justice—also under a shared Art. II, Sec. 2 power, the appointments power—by claiming the Senate has waived its role of shared appointments power, even the administration’s political supporters have laughed off this suggestion. That scenario is even more absurd concerning the Paris treaty. The Constitution requires a two-thirds Senate majority for committing to treaties......To Read More