When he was sworn in as Secretary of State, John Kerry took a solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Yet Kerry seems to have discovered something about the Constitution he will not defend–even in the face of one of America’s worst enemies.
On Thursday, Kerry told the Senate that he had done his best to argue, both with Iran and with the other members of the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China), that Congress deserved to be able to review the Iran deal before it was passed by the UN Security Council.
On Friday, he sang a different tune in front of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), complaining about the very idea of congressional review:
I mean, do you think the ayatollah is going to come back to the table if Congress refuses this and negotiate again? Do you think that they’re going to sit there and other people in the world are going to say, hey, let’s go negotiate with the United States, they have 535 secretaries of State? (Laughter.) I mean, please. I would be embarrassed to try to go out–I mean, what am I going to say to people after this as secretary of State? Come negotiate with us. Oh, can you deliver? Please.
The Treaty Clause of the Constitution–Article II, Section 2, Clause 2–provides that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
Many critics–Kerry would not be the first–have said that the Treaty Clause hampers the prerogatives of the executive in negotiating.
Nonetheless, there it is. He swore to defend it, not to abrogate it to appease the ayatollahs.
The Obama administration took the unusual step of refusing to submit the Iran deal to Congress as a treaty. So Congress responded with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act–the “Corker bill”–as an attempt to exert some of its constitutional power.
After threatening to veto it, President Obama signed it. Yet here is Kerry, mocking it, and the underlying principle it sought to defend.
Evidently Kerry’s contempt for the Constitution is shared by some of the other member of the CFR, who found his remarks rather amusing.
What is not amusing is the way that Kerry, and the Obama administration as a whole, have attempted to mislead Congress and the country about what they were actually doing throughout the nuclear talks.
Kerry’s two-faced comments on congressional review are typical of that misleading behavior.
It was that contempt for Congress that prompted 47 Senators to sign Tom Cotton’s letter to the Iranian leadership, reminding them that Kerry could not give them what the Senate had not empowered him to concede.
If Kerry thinks the Treaty Clause is outdated, he should urge a constitutional amendment, and resign.
If not, he should show Congress the deference it is due, rather than mocking its constitutional power for the amusement of Beltway bureaucrats and the Iranian theocracy.