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‘Embarrassing’: GOP senators get the Constitution wrong while lecturing Iran about US law

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An open letter signed by 47 Republicans senators warning Iranian leaders about a nuclear deal with the United States contains an “embarrassing” and “unbecoming” error.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the letter began.

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But Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, writing at the Lawfare blog, said it appears that the senators are the ones who “do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements.”

The letter warned that President Barack Obama had no right to negotiate international treaties without congressional approval.

“In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote… Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the letter claimed.

However, Goldsmith noted that the Senate’s own website makes clear that the Senate does not “ratify” treaties. The president is the one who ratifies the treaty if the Senate consents.

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“The Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification,” the Senate’s website explains.

Goldsmith described the error as embarrassing.

“This is a technical point that does not detract from the letter’s message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency… But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing,” he concluded.

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Goldsmith wasn’t the only one who spotted the inaccuracy.

Andrew C. McCarthy, writing at the conservative National Review, said the letter was a “step in the right direction,” but also noted the senators’ “unfortunate” error.

“Substantively, this is a small point. After all, many people understandably conflate consent with ratification, since a treaty cannot be ratified absent Senate consent. But when the point of a letter is to lecture people about our law, getting the law wrong is, shall we say, unbecoming,” he wrote.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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