Respectfully disagreeing: the Republican letter on Iran was proper and needed

March 10, 2015

Turn almost anywhere in D.C. and you’ll find someone screaming in outrage about something: taxes, health care, regulations of one sort or another, the secret Lizard People conspiracy to control our government, whatever. The latest chorus of outrage has arisen because of an open letter to the Iranian government written by Senator Cotton (R-AR) and 46 others among his Republican colleagues. The senators wanted to remind Iran that the US Senate has a constitutional role to play regarding any treaty with Tehran and that no agreement would be lasting without the Senate’s consent. You can read the letter here, but below is a key excerpt:

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

In other words, “there’s no real deal unless it contains provisions we approve of.”

This started a firestorm of criticism from the Left, with perhaps the most shrill, hysteria-laden attack coming on the cover of the New York Daily News:

Hyperbole much?

Hyperbole much?

Graphic via Hot Air

(Aside: “treason” is a word thrown around far too easily in recent years. By the Left and the Right.)

And the reaction from the White House and their allies in Congress wasn’t much farther behind:

Congressional Democrats joined the White House in denouncing the letter, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) calling it “a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations — it weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world.”

(…)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Republicans of trying to “sabotage” the nuclear talks.

“This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world,” Boxer said in a statement.

Well, if anyone understands “bizarre,” it’s Barbara Boxer.

I’ll leave it to Noah Rothman to deal with the rank hypocrisy of the Democrats’ statements (here’s one huge example from The Federalist), but there were criticisms, or at least sad regret, from some on the Right, too. First, while Byron York at the Washington Examiner acknowledges that Obama started this mess, he still sees little good in the issuance of the Cotton letter:

It should go without saying that the reason Republicans are doing these things is because they are deeply concerned about a possible Iran deal. But another reason they’re acting is because they can. On Iran and before that on immigration, healthcare, and other matters, Obama has pushed his executive authority beyond its proper limits, on the flimsy pretense that he is entitled to act unilaterally if Congress does not pass bills he wants. Could anyone fail to anticipate that in response Congress would stretch its own authority, too?

(…)

Of course, it is still a bad thing. It is not good to invite a foreign leader to address Congress in a campaign against the U.S. president. It is not good to undermine the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy. But it’s not a good thing to undermine Congress’ authority to make laws, either. And to threaten even more undermining in the future, as Obama has done.

Meanwhile, at Hot Air, my friend Jazz Shaw thinks the letter is too much, too soon:

The whole point is that the system seems to be breaking down, and this letter is yet another example of the United States airing its dirty laundry for the rest of the world to see. Under ideal conditions, this would all be hammered out in private between Obama and the Congress and he could then send Kerry to negotiate something they could all live with. That didn’t happen either, so this is clearly not a case of all the fault being on one side of the aisle. In fact, when the President turned around and said this wasn’t really a treaty so he could do what he liked, that was possibly an even worse sin than what Tom Cotton and his cosigners have done. Trying to change the nature of a major deal between nations by calling it an agreement rather than a treaty is just a dodge, and not a particularly artful one at that.

Still, I find myself disagreeing with Tom Cotton (who I admire very much, and have since I interviewed him during the election) and wishing that this letter hadn’t been written. If there had to be an official response, a resolution of disapproval of the negotiations (or later, of the deal itself) could have been passed on the Senate floor. That would have at least kept the communications in house, rather than having the Legislative branch dive directly into the mix with Iran. The system of how things need to work to keep Washington functional continues to break down, and this letter did nothing to help with that challenge.

Both writers express an understandable wish for comity between the parties and branches when facing a dangerous foe. And many of us are old enough to remember when such a period existed when politics (mostly) “stopped at the water’s edge” — that era from World War II to the fall of the USSR when  there was a general consensus on foreign affairs between the parties in the face of threats from first the Nazis and then the Communists.

But that period slowly came to an end with two developments: first the rise of the anti-war socialist and communist-sympathizing Left and their liberal dupes to domination of the Democratic Party after 1968. They simply did not and do not share the foreign policy assumptions of the older, New Deal liberals who formed half of the consensus.

The other event was the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  With the deadly enemy gone, the pressure to unite against the outsider was lifted. Hence it became easier to take politics beyond the water’s edge.

And, while I opened this by saying I respectfully disagree, York and Shaw (and others) have a valid point: It *is* regrettable that there is no consensus anymore on our foreign affairs (1), and it is a shame that oru squabbles have to be carried out in public. Ours is a largely informal system in which policy makers would (should) come to a consensus based on agreement on broad principles.

But, for now at least, that agreement is gone, and one side pushes so far beyond the bounds of what has been acceptable that the other feels forced to retaliate.

Yet I still disagree that Senator Cotton and his colleagues should not have done this. As York himself notes, the administration and congressional  Democrats have shown little but contempt for constitutional norms and bounds since Obama was inaugurated. And in the face of the many slights against the American settlement perpetrated by the Obama White House and colluded in by the congressional Democrats, congressional Republicans have been nearly supine. The latest, the failure to stop Obama’s illegal, unconstitutional amnesty plan via the DHS budget, was a humiliating disgrace that could well encourage other adventures in petty tyranny on the president’s part. And it was just one moment, albeit egregious, in the long march of Congress surrendering more and more of its authority to the Executive since progressivism took hold.

Congress needed to push back to start reclaiming its role in our system, and this letter represents a good start. And it was better to do it now, while the agreement is still being worked out, than wait until it could be presented as “take it or leave it, and the consequences of rejection be on your shoulders.” Far from interfering in foreign affairs, this represents the Senate majority asserting its proper constitutional role and demanding it be honored. If Senator Cotton is representative of the newer generation of senators, then I have hope some balance will be restored.

While it’s regrettable that the fight has taken public, it’s much more heartening to see the legislature assert itself as Madison intended, jealously guarding its interest.

Footnote:
(1) Kind of hard to have one when one side still believes in a muscular, exceptional America as a force for good in the world, and the other sees American power as the problem and chooses national decline.

 


#Obamacare: Democrats scared law they wrote might actually be enforced

February 16, 2015

satire train wreck

And well they should be. Obamacare was structured so that you paid a fine fee tax (1) if you didn’t have the required insurance. That fine was trivial for the first year, but scheduled to go up each year for the next two years: from $95 in 2014 to $325 this year to as much as $1,100 next year. That rule is now coming into effect, so…

Cue Democrat panic:

The three are Michigan’s Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. All worked to help steer Obama’s law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010.

The lawmakers say they are concerned that many of their constituents will find out about the penalties after it’s already too late for them to sign up for coverage, since open enrollment ended Sunday.

That means they could wind up uninsured for another year, only to owe substantially higher fines in 2016. The fines are collected through the income tax system.

This year is the first time ordinary Americans will experience the complicated interactions between the health care law and taxes. Based on congressional analysis, tax preparation giant H&R Block says roughly 4 million uninsured people will pay penalties.

When they wrote this anti-constitutional monstrosity of a law, Reps. Levin, McDermott, and Doggett, along with all the other Democrats who voted for it (2), had fooled themselves into thinking that it would become so popular that the number of people subject to a fine would be de minimis.

Four million angry voters is not what they imagined, though it seems as if they have started to have nightmares about it, since they’re begging Obama to use his pen and phone (and the authority he does not have) to rewrite the law –again– so Democrats can avoid the consequences of their arrogance and stupidity.

Trouble is (for them), I’m not so sure President Obama cares all that much anymore what happens to Democratic congressman. He doesn’t have to worry about reelection, now does he?

And, oh yes, these voters will be angry, and Republicans will be sure to remind them just who visited this hurt on them.

Like elections, votes in Congress have consequences.

via Conservative Intelligence Briefing

Footnotes:
(1) Only John Roberts understands which.
(2) And not a single Republican, let us be clear. This mess isn’t our fault at all.


Is there anyone lower than a Senate Democrat?

February 4, 2015
"Senate Grinch"

“Senate Grinch”

I’m really not sure, after this stunt:

In a shocking move, Senate Democrats today filibustered all funding for the Department of Homeland Security. They refused to allow the DHS funding bill, which has already passed the House, to be brought up for a vote. This means that funding for DHS, including its many vital national security functions, will soon run out.

Why would Democrats vote unanimously to shut down DHS? Because the funding bill excludes the implementation of President Obama’s patently illegal and unconstitutional subversion of the nation’s immigration laws. The Democrats’ position is: either you go approve of and pay for the president’s illegal acts, or we will shut DHS down.

Note that “unanimously” includes supposed bridge-building moderate Joe Manchin (D-WV), who says he’s in DC to “get things done.” Remember this lesson: there is no such thing as a moderate or conservative Democrat, not when it counts — in a vote. They’ll say all the right words their voters want to hear about being “centrist” and standing against the president, but, when push comes to shove, they still vote with their progressive leadership.

But then, what else should we expect from a caucus still lead by Harry Reid, who as Majority Leader turned himself into a human roadblock against almost any bill passing, even amendments his own party members wanted considered? When it came to being “Dr. No,” Reid made Andrei Gromyko look like a paragon of cooperation.

Now in the minority, he apparently plans to do the same thing, all to protect Obama’s anti-constitutional usurpation of the Congress’ power to write our laws.

Again, what should we expect from the man who ran as fast as he could to a microphone to stab our Armed Forces in the back and scream “all is lost” just as they were about to begin a major campaign against al Qaeda?

Harry Reid is a venal, mean-spirited old wretch of a man whose idea of the “national interest” extends no further than his party’s caucus chamber and who couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about his responsibilities to the Constitution.

The Senate will be improved immeasurably once he retires.

More from Politico.


Something I rarely say: “Good for you, Senator McCain”

January 29, 2015
Get off his lawn.

Get off his lawn.

I’m not a great fan of John McCain (R-AZ) (1), but when given a choice between him and the juvenile, narcissistic, sanctimonious anti-American pendejas of Code Pink… Well, the choice is obvious:

As the protesters from the group Code Pink chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” and waved a pair of handcuffs in the 91-year-old’s face, former Secretary of State George Shultz, who was also called to testify, confronted them, and several senators, including Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, came down from the podium to assist. Capitol Police, meanwhile, did not intervene to stop the protests.

“You’re going to have to shut up or I’m going to have you arrested,” McCain told them, then added: “Get out of here, you low-life scum.”

Code Pink protesters are a common feature at Armed Services hearings in both chambers, but McCain said Thursday’s protest was beyond the limits of what was acceptable.

Damn straight it was unacceptable. We give plenty of leeway to protesters and they have many means to make their voices heard. However, disrupting a hearing in a democratically elected legislature and attempting to intimidate a witness —a 91 year old witness— is not one of them. McCain wants these brownshirts pinkshirts prosecuted, and I hope the Capitol Police follow through on it.

One question: Why the heck did the Capitol Police let it get this to the point where US senators felt they had to come down to protect Dr. Kissinger?

One observation: Both Senator Cotton and Senator Ernst recently served in the Army. I would not have laid money on Code Pink’s chances, had they tried to press their luck.

Footnote:
(1) In fact, I’ve been know to utter the words “vain old fool” in connection to him…


(Video) Andrew Klavan with the revolting truth about the Senate “torture report”

January 16, 2015

Writer and satirist Andrew Klavan takes a sober, dignified look at the recent report on torture and the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques from the Senate Intelligence Committee. I think he sums it up just about right:

Notice how quiet the Democrats and the MSM have become about that report? That’s because they realize it was such an embarrassingly bad hack job that even they can’t defend it.


Another Victory for Fiscal Responsibility: The Death of Earmarks

December 7, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Earmarks can have a good use, but most of them are just institutionalized corruption, bribes to get votes on bills. Good riddance.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I wrote a few days ago that advocates of smaller government have won a very significant victory over the past five years, as measured by the fact that there’s been zero growth in overall federal spending.

And because the private economy has grown while the federal budget has been flat, this means that the burden of government spending – measured as a share of GDP – has declined.

This doesn’t mean our fiscal problems are solved. Indeed, the long-run numbers are still horrible and we desperately need genuine entitlement reform to avoid becoming a failed European-style welfare state.

But a long journey begins with a first step and the spending freeze over the past five years is worth celebrating.

And let’s also celebrate the fact that members of Congress no longer have carte blanche, generally using “appropriations” legislation, to specifically allocate spending for campaign contributors and other favored constituencies. Such…

View original 1,141 more words


#Immigration: Congress *can* defund Obama’s executive order

November 26, 2014

Obamacaligula

Apparently Caesar Obama can decree all he wants, but getting the money to pay for his tyranny is another matter altogether:

The letter, requested by a Republican lawmaker, addressed an issue raised by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has claimed it is impossible for Republicans to defund Obama’s amnesty since the agency in charge of issuing the work permits, the United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services office, is almost entirely funded by user fees.

The [Congressional Research Service] found that Rogers’ claim was completely false. From the letter:

“In light of Congress’s constitutional power over the purse, the Supreme Court has recognized that “Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes.” Where Congress has done so, “an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities. Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes.

A fee-funded agency or activity typically refers to one in which the amounts appropriated by Congress for that agency or activity are derived from fees collected from some external source. Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency. In some cases, this appropriation is provided through the annual appropriations process. In other instances, it is an appropriation that has been enacted independently of the annual appropriations process (such as a permanent appropriation in an authorizing act). In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds.”

This makes perfect sense constitutionally and legally: the agency is a creation of Congress, which has told it to raise money for its operations from user fees. It would be risible to say that Congress somehow lacked the power to tell that same agency how to spend the money Congress authorized it to collect in the first place.

The Republican leadership is discussing a long-term funding resolution for most of the government, and a short-term one for the Immigration Service, so that the new Republican legislature could then order it not to spend any money to enforce Obama’s order. This would be a first good step toward reining in Obama’s usurping presidency.

Let’s hope they have the courage to do it.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,012 other followers