The Senate Cedes Its Authority on Climate

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Regarding George Melloan’s “The Yellow Jackets Are Right About Green Policies” (op-ed, Dec. 17): Neither President Clinton nor Vice President Gore was willing to affix his signature to the Kyoto Protocol on international CO2 reductions. They had the acting U.N. ambassador sign instead, as the Senate years earlier had voted unanimously to give its Article II, Sec. 2 “advice” urging the administration not to agree to such terms. Having tried little to persuade the public of the merits of the deal, Messrs. Clinton and Gore went on to forego Senate ratification of what all parties had implicitly acknowledged was a treaty—a position maintained by President George W. Bush.

In turn, Washington’s environmental establishment determined that no future agreement would be acknowledged as a treaty for U.S. purposes, regardless of the pact’s terms, lineage or U.S. custom and practice. For example, the Obama administration hailed the Paris climate pact, far more consequential than Kyoto and a treaty by all historic considerations, as “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history”, while daring the Senate by calling Paris “not a treaty.”

Rather than defend its own constitutional prerogatives, the Senate in past years has acquiesced in the politically expedient myth that its duty to approve or deny treaties can be discarded at the pleasure of the executive of the moment. Pretending that it’s only a treaty if a president says it is risks waking one day to realize the Senate’s authority has atrophied to the point of waiver, with the ”world’s greatest deliberative body” asked to opine only when that executive is sufficiently confident it will agree with him.

Originally published at the Wall Street Journal.