Friday, June 2, 2017

'We Will Always Have Paris (Accords) To Deal With'

We wrote several posts over the past couple of years that basically asked this question of supporters of President Obama's executive actions and unilateral agreement-making through the White House and not with the cooperation of the US House or Senate:

'Will you be just as happy to see a Republican President in the White House use those very same executive unilateral powers to A) unwind all of President Obama's executive unilateral actions and/or B) bind the US to policies that only he and a minority of his political party want to see passed?'

The Paris Climate Accords are just the latest casualty of that failure to adhere to the US Constitution as currently written. What was written and signed essentially by one man in the 3-part governing system of the United States has now been upended by another man with the stroke of a pen and 1 press conference.

Is that really the way the Founders wanted to see us run this country, essentially through one-man rule from the White House?

Setting aside all of the arguments for and against controlling carbon emissions, what should President Obama have done to make sure the US would abide by and adhere to the Paris Climate Accords: 

Submit it to the US Senate for ratification as a treaty.

Sure it would have been difficult to get it through the US Senate and get the 2/3rds votes necessary for ratification.

But passing legislation and treaties in the United States has never been easy. Nor should it be. The process is set up to insure that legislation duly passed by majorities and super-majorities last for a long time.

Consider the enormous challenge faced by President Abraham Lincoln when he wanted to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. The process started in the Senate in 1864 before the elections that fall when it looked like President Lincoln might lose because of the duration of the Civil War.

However, in the midst of the bloodiest war our country has ever experienced in terms of loss of life for American soldiers and citizens, President Lincoln lobbied and cajoled and persuaded enough House and Senate members to get to the 2/3rds majority necessary to send the amendment to the states for ratification.

If you saw the Steven Spielberg movie 'Lincoln', you will remember that passage of such controversial legislation was not based just on lofty philosophical musings and speeches but on cold hard deal-making, job offers and political jockeying.

That is the 'real world' of politics and legislation. It does not operate in a vacuum or in some sterilized laboratory somewhere. It happens on Capitol Hill and in all state legislatures and municipal government councils and commissions each and every day.

President Obama chose not to do the 'dirty work' of passing such a controversial piece of legislation, this time in the form of a binding US treaty, to ratify the Paris Climate Accords that only he signed, not the US government as a whole.

Just to say that is is 'too hard' to pass something through the Senate or Congress is not enough to justify not trying to get it done. Not trying to pass something because it will be difficult to pass is, quite honestly in our constitutional form of governance, lazy. It also goes against close to 241 years now of American history where a lot of things appeared to be too hard to try to change only to see those things actually change and improve through the fortitude and leadership of just a few key people.

Our guess is that President Trump and his team will change some of the terms of the Paris Accords, particularly in the area of synchronizing the effective dates of compliance so that China and other nations all start on the same date as the United States, and then resubmit them to the other partners for their consideration.

Remember: This President wrote a book called 'The Art of the Deal'. Other signatories to the pact say that 'The Paris Accords can not be renegotiated!' which is a little silly when you think about all of the bills, treaties and agreements that have been rewritten and renegotiated over time.

It is hard work. But it can be done.

So, so far into 5 1/2 months of President Obama's retirement, thousands of his unilateral executive actions have been reversed or canceled in their entirety; thousands of pages of regulations put forth by his Administration are now being unwound or reversed by the new Administration; his ban against the construction of the Keystone Pipeline has been lifted; his fuzzy 'red line' drawn against Syria has been obliterated and now his unilateral acceptance of the terms of the Paris Climate Accords has been reversed.

You know the only thing that has not been reversed yet, for those who supported President Obama and his term in office?

The Affordable Care Act. Obamacare.

You know why?

Because it was, contrary to so much else done under President Obama's two terms in office, duly passed through both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate and signed into law by President Obama in compliance with the US Constitution.

Until a majority of the US House and US Senate can pass something to either repeal it in its entirety or replace it with something else, the ACA will remain the law of the land.

Keep that in mind next time you cheer on a US president who says he or she is signing this or that in the name of the United States of America.

Because, as we are now seeing in the aftermath of President Obama's executive actions, they won't last for very long. Especially when the other side wins the next election.

We have a Constitution for a reason. Read it every now and then to remind yourself of the incredible foresight our first generation of elected leaders had to look far into the future and implement ways to limit the powers of one person in this country to run things without the consent of the majority of citizens as expressed through elected representatives, not public opinion polls.


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