Did the Resolution Condemning Turkey Create a Constitutional Crisis?
By Frank Salvato
Recently, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by US Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), passed a resolution that recognized the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide. While the circumstances surrounding the slaughter are disputed, the killings did occur. The larger questions this action presents could very well be as disturbing as the killings themselves. What was there to gain by issuing this non-binding resolution at this moment in time? And, did the issuance of the non-binding resolution usurp the Executive Branch’s authority to establish foreign policy?
Article II of the United States Constitution addresses the Executive Branch and in specific the powers of the presidency. Section 3 of Article II reads:
“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”
It is the part of Article II, Section 3 that states, “...he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;...” that applies to the issue set forth here.
Linda R. Monk, a constitutional scholar and a two-time recipient of the American Bar Associations Silver Gavel Award for her work pertaining to the Bill of Rights, explains in her book, The Words We Live By:
“The president is the nation’s chief diplomat and the sole representative of the country when dealing with foreign powers. Other nations are not allowed to lobby Congress directly, for example. The president’s power to receive ambassadors is also the power to recognize foreign governments.”
This fact-based interpretation of Article II, Section 3 indicates that the only elected or appointed official authorized to establish and/or initiate foreign policy is the President of the United States. It is for this reason that the actions of the State Department are authorized by the Executive Branch and not the Legislative or Judicial Branches.
Conversely, the Legislative Branch of the US Government – the House and the Senate – while having established committees that address the issue of foreign relations, are limited to instituting legislation pertaining to the financial aspect of US foreign relations.
On the House Foreign Relation Committees website it cedes the establishment of foreign policy to the Executive Branch, stating unequivocally:
“Though the Executive Branch does take the lead on nearly every aspect of foreign policy, the congressional committees have used their "power of the purse" to exert influence upon the President’s agenda.”
The authority of the Executive Branch to establish foreign policy recognized, two questions must be asked:
▪ What was the goal of the House Foreign Relations Committee’s non-binding resolution recognizing, 90 years after the fact that and in their opinion, that genocide had occurred against the Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks?
▪ Did the issuance of the non-binding resolution (in essence getting their opinion on record) usurp the Executive Branch’s authority to establish foreign policy?
To reiterate, historical accuracy mandates that we acknowledge that the killings did indeed occur, whether the circumstances surrounding the killings are disputed or not. But at a time when we have US soldiers in harms way, depending on access to critically located military bases in Turkey for supplies, and as a bitter debate on the future course of the war rages from Capitol Hill to the White House, the idea of advancing a resolution that antagonizes a fragile alliance in the most troubled part of the world is irresponsible.
Those of a more critical mind could very well argue that the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos (D-CA) – and anti-war Secular Progressive Democrat – was abusing his position to illicit a negative reaction from the Turkish government in the hope of seeing that country’s cooperation with the US and Coalition military operations in Iraq come to an end.
If Lantos and his committee did in fact advance this non-binding resolution with the aim of effecting the relations between the United States and Turkey it could be successfully argued that he and his committee acted in defiance of the US Constitution, undermining the exclusive province of the Executive Branch to establish foreign policy creating a constitutional crisis.
The Democrat led 110th Congress has repeatedly attempted to transgress the separation of powers in their efforts to force their bidding onto the Executive Branch. In their efforts to destroy the Bush Administration they have demonstrated a reckless disregard for the Charters of Freedom and made plain their willingness to engage in devious behavior in their quest to attain power. In this instance, the attempt – whether intentional or not – resulted in the creation of an international incident that could very well bring about the escalation of violence in the Iraqi theater.
The Democrat leadership in the House has quashed the idea of bringing this malevolent and visionless resolution to the floor for a vote, but the damage has been done. Foreign relations with a crucial partner in the liberation and stabilization of Iraq have been compromised and the foundation of our Constitutional Republic in the separation of powers has been threatened.
Elected officials must be held accountable for disregarding the boundaries of their authority. We can ill-afford to allow the continued transgression of the separation of powers by those who greedily seek to install a Fifth Column-style hegemony over our government.
Whether through voter rebellion or by way of the initiation of judicial action meant to preserve the tenets of the Constitution, we must awaken from our ignorant slumber and perform our civic responsibility by holding our elected officials accountable for their actions. We must demand that our elected officials deliver good government over political opportunism. The alternative is handing the next generation a dysfunctional government and a nation that scantly resembles that which was conceived by our Founders. The alternative is the death of the American Experiment.
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