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Obama's Treaty-Making Powers Broader Than Recognized

It's Possible for Both Houses of Congress to Ratify a Treaty by Majority Vote

By David Sassoon

Dec 7, 2009

Though arguably the most powerful man on the planet, U.S. President Barack Obama heads to Copenhagen later this month wearing handcuffs. The failure of Congress to pass domestic climate legislation has meant the president has had to advance slowly, lest he get ahead of lawmakers in the Capitol. After all according to the Constitution, international treaties must be ratified by 67 "yes" votes in the Senate.

Also still fresh in everybody's mind is the the Senate cast in opposition to US participation in the Kyoto Protocol, though that vote happened more than a decade ago.

But a working paper just posted at the at Columbia University's law school takes a fresh look at the legal basis of the president’s independent power to enter into internationally binding commitments related to climate change, and it finds that the president has broader powers than commonly recognized. It also identifies an intriguing possibility backed by historical and legal precedent.

The president could submit a climate treaty for passage in both houses of Congress by a simple majority, rather than before the Senate alone for passage by a super-majority. In other words, it is possible for Obama to get a global deal ratified by securing a filibuster-proof 60 "yes" votes in the Senate, rather than 67.

"Every vote is blood," Michael Gerrard, executive director of the center, told SolveClimate. "And there's a century's worth of practice that provides the legal basis."

The working paper is a reassuring bit of legal sleuthing. Even if the U.S. passes domestic climate legislation, genuine concern remains that in the polarized politics inside the beltway, a global treaty could still fail to garner 67 votes needed for U.S. ratification. Now, with Obama announcing that he will travel to Copenhagen on the summit's closing day, when deals are customarily finalized, the idea of needing seven fewer votes in the Senate to secure passage of an eventual treaty is a tantalizing prospect that could fortify his ambition.

The center's paper opens a legal discussion with important political implications for the president to consider.

It points to a suite of broad presidential powers to conduct foreign affairs that could loosen his handcuffs as international climate negotiations proceed in Copenhagen and beyond. There's a legal basis for Obama to exercise more global leadership in spite of a laggard Congress.

The Center for Climate Law was established in January to develop legal techniques for combating climate change. It maintains comprehensive charts of climate change law with links to decisions, briefs and memos — one for U.S. case law, and one for law in the rest of the world. It is "universally useful" for environmentalists, industry and government, Gerrard says.

At the same time, the center has an advocacy mission to help train the next generation of lawyers in a rapidly developing field that touches every aspect of the law — corporate and securities law to international trade, intellectual property and human rights law.

Gerrard agreed to direct the Center for Climate Change Law and teach at Columbia Law School after a 30-year career as an environmental lawyer with Arnold and Porter in New York. His Global Climate Change and U.S. Law, one of seven books he has published, is a leading work in its field.

Because his kids are out of college, Gerrard said, he agreed to "a massive voluntary income reduction" to make the move, though he still spends a day a week working for his former firm as a senior counselor. Seven undergraduates volunteer at the center, where the current budget permits Gerrard to have full-time help from only one paid staff member, Hannah Chang, the deputy director, who authored the working paper in time for Copenhagen.

phony balony

I dont beieve a word of what Columbia University said. They are fraud just like Barry. Prove its the law you suddenly materalized.

This is supposed to be the

This is supposed to be the land of the free...this is not what I call freedom.  I pray that everything about obama comes out in the open and he is jailed with all his cronies and we can take our country back.

Wolves Controlling the Sheep

Handing over our right to use energy to produce goods, services and profits to a handful of international bankers and their sycophants should alarm every rational person on the planet, even the poorer nations who seek to gain an endless revenue stream for status as underdeveloped, at-risk nations. More dangerous, though, than the control these cabalists will exert upon our economies, is their influence on reproductive rights, access to clean water/sanitation/healthcare, laws, immigration, access to education and the pursuit of science untainted by their socio-political objectives.

If the international bankers and their minions, like Al Gore and Barack H. Obama were so concerned about global warming, one would think that they would demonstrate limitations on their own wasteful excess and simply teleconference their summit. Al Gore certainly wasn't bothered by global climate warming and its unjust impact on third world nations when he secured the winning bid for the national petroleum stockpile with Bill Clinton's blessing and sold it through his father's Occidental Petroleum Company. Raping the national petroleum reserves with President William Jefferson Clinton's blessing, however, was not enough for old Al and he came back to extract the maximum profit from the little people.

If Barack H. Obama binds America to a treaty at Copenhagen by some slight of hand Executive Order signature or bypasses ratification in the Senate by a super majority vote with a majority vote in both houses, expect average Americans to understand that science has been hijacked by political expediency. A coup by the international bankers and European elites is not climate science, it is tyranny.

That's just great..

The president can't get this fraud passed by normal channels, so we encourage him to dictate this massive tax by fiat.

"Let them eat cake".

You absolute fools are willing to wreck all of the west in order to ensure your program of "Social Justice".

The billions and billions of dollars pissed away in this could be going to get clean water in Africa, help with the various epidemics, work toward medical cures, etc.

Instead, in order to further a socialist agenda, we are being encouraged to defraud the most productive sectors of our society in order to bankroll this cyclopean juggernaut of fraud.

"Let them eat cake" is

"Let them eat cake" is exactly right. It's what this generation has been saying to its grandchildren because its own luxuries are more important than anything else in the world.

your cap and trade by your president

i hope when all of this crap by your president is said and done, and the country is bankrupt to the point of no return, im going to sit back and say in the words of will smith in I robot, "some how i told you so just doesnt cover it". have fun paying your power bills and driving

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