Congress has a legitimate interest in foreign affairs, especially when they involve agreements with foreign governments. President Barack Obama is making a mistake when he categorically rejects a bipartisan demand that he consult Congress regarding any nuclear agreement with Iran.
Mr. Obama has threatened to veto a bill proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that would require the president to submit any agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear program to Congress for approval.
The president also has threatened to veto a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, with backing by as many as 66 senators. It would apply new, stronger sanctions on Iran if it fails to reach an agreement this year or if it makes an agreement but fails to carry it out.
Indeed, the president got visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron to telephone key senators urging them to oppose the bill. The administration says it would cause Iran to back out of negotiations and kill the deal.
To say the least, the president’s threats, especially regarding the Corker bill, are contrary to the spirit of compromise hailed by Mr. Obama in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, when he said, “I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”
In stiff-arming Congress, the president is not only failing to cooperate with the GOP, he is disregarding a significant number of legislators from his own party.
It is against that background of executive intransigence on Iran that the Republican invitation to Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress should be judged.
The White House called the surprise invitation a breach of protocol.
That charge appears to have constitutional merit. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The transaction of business with foreign nations is Executive altogether.”
And Nancy Pelosi was rightly criticized when, as House Speaker in 2007 and 2008, she tried to carry out a foreign policy of her own through a misguided overture to Syria.
But the GOP invitation to Mr. Netanyahu, who is widely admired in Congress and who opposes Mr. Obama’s diplomacy with Iran, does convey understandable frustration in the legislative branch. After all, the president has advanced the constitutionally dubious notion that a nuclear agreement with Iran would somehow not qualify as a treaty requiring Senate confirmation. He has also squandered potential leverage in his negotiations with Iran by arguing that Congress can’t impose tougher sanctions.
That makes the controversy over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coming speech another self-inflicted wound to the Obama administration’s repeatedly bungled foreign policy.
And considering the potentially disastrous consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran, federal lawmakers from both parties are correct to resist being cut out of this high-stakes game.