President Trump Must Submit Paris Climate Agreement to the Senate | Citizens Against Government Waste

President Trump Must Submit Paris Climate Agreement to the Senate

The WasteWatcher

On November 14, President Obama made the following remarks in a press conference before his final foreign trip.  When asked about legal constraints placed on him by Congress (specifically with respect to prisoners housed at Guantanamo Bay and his belief that the limitations were unconstitutional), he said, “One of the things you discover about being President is that there are all these rules and norms and laws, and you got to pay attention to them.  And the people who work for you are also subject to those rules and norms.  And that's a piece of advice that I gave to the incoming President.”

This is a remarkable statement coming from an administration that has overstepped its executive reach and broken the rule of law on several occasions.  George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley, a renowned constitutional scholar particularly in the area of issues related to the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government, discussed in testimony before a January 29, 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee how he was worried about the “current constitutional crisis between the Executive and Legislative branches, a crisis in which the Justice Department has played a dominant (and, in my view, a highly deleterious) role.”  He said:

As my writings indicate, I have been concerned about the erosion of lines of separation in our system (and specifically the erosion of legislative authority) for many years.  However, this concern has grown to alarm in the last few years under President Obama, someone who I voted for and someone with whom I agree on many policy issues.  We are watching a fundamental change in our constitutional system in the rise of a dominant Chief Executive, a type of 'uber presidency' that has evaded the limitations imposed by the Framers in our system.  It certainly did not begin with President Obama, and I was previously critical of the action of President George W. Bush with regards to the loss of legislative authority. However, it has reached a dangerous constitutional tipping point under the current Administration. That aggrandizement of authority could not have occurred without the active support and catalytic role of the United States Justice Department."

Dissatisfied with Congress’s “slowness” in passing legislation to implement policies he desired, President Obama leaped well over his constitutional boundaries by utilizing regulations, guidance documents, and executive orders to make numerous changes to the Affordable Care Act, immigration, and other laws; made “recess” appointments of controversial nominees when the Senate was not in recess; failed to enforce current laws, and agreed to treaties without Senate ratification.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he will reverse Obama’s executive orders when he gets into the White House.  And while reversing the orders may not all occur on day one, it is important that he does follow through as quickly as possible.

Among the first and likely easiest targets of a Trump administration would be to override Obama’s “go-it-alone” support of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and instead follow the procedure required by the Constitution for authorization.  

Contrary to President Obama’s claim, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is a treaty, which the Oxford Dictionary describes as an agreement “formally concluded and ratified agreement between countries.”  Furthermore, under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution, 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…”  In this case, the Senate will not concur, and the U.S. will not be a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Of course, the reason why President Obama never presented the climate treaty to the Senate was because he knew there would not be enough senators to approve it.  And, while Senators could not interfere directly with the climate summit that occurred in Paris last December, they did warn foreign leaders that because Obama did not follow proper procedures, they should not rely on the United States to follow through on the agreement because it was not legally binding.

Laying faulty climate science aside and the damage the Paris agreement could do to our nation’s economy, the important issue being considered in this matter is the rule of law.  President Trump must send a strong signal to future presidents and their minions “that there are all these rules and norms and laws, and you got to pay attention to them."  It will tell the people who support the president, that they too "are also subject to those rules and norms.”  A future president must understand that while he or she may have a pen and a phone, that doesn't cut it.  Instead, presidents must follow the Constitution, even if it means their policies will not be implemented.

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