Hillary Clinton today pressed President Bush to get Congress’s approval before completing an agreement with Iraq about its security relationship with the US, including the duration of America’s presence in the region. Clinton’s call comes on the heels of legislation she introduced yesterday requiring the President to work with Congress before moving forward on the agreement. The legislation’s aims are two-fold: to forestall the Bush-Cheney administration’s efforts to keep the war going even after it leaves office; and to thwart the Administration’s latest executive power grab.
“It is outrageous that the Bush administration would seek to circumvent the U.S. Congress on a matter of such vital interest to national security,” Clinton said. “The President has ignored the American people’s desire to end this war and is now engaging in a process that threatens to commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq. This is unacceptable and I hope the President asks Congress to review this agreement. If he doesn’t, Congress must act.”
Last week, the Bush administration announced the Declaration of Principles for a Long-term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship with Iraq, an agreement to start formal negotiations with Iraq about a long-term security pact between the United States and Iraq. The Declaration sets a goal of concluding this final agreement by July 31, 2008.
Among other things, the final agreement will address the role of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq. I t will reportedly offer American "security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression." And, according to a senior White House official, the size and shape of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq is a “key matter for negotiation.”
Despite the dramatic implications for American foreign policy and national security, the Administration says that it does not “anticipate that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would require formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress.” At the same time, it has been reported that Iraqi officials plan to submit the agreement when it is concluded to the Iraqi parliament for approval.
Clinton’s legislation has the following components:
- No funds may be authorized or appropriated to carry out any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq involving “commitments or risks affecting the nation as a whole,” including a status of forces agreement (SOFA), that is not a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate under Article II of the Constitution or authorized by legislation passed by both Houses of Congress.
- The State Department Legal Advisor must provide to the Congress a memorandum evaluating the President’s decision to deny Congress its constitutionally protected role by concluding an agreement on the future of the U.S.-Iraqi security relationship as an executive agreement without the assent of the Congress.
- The memorandum must include an analysis of the Constitutional powers relied on by the President in reaching the conclusion that such an agreement does not require approval by the Congress.
- It is the sense of Congress that any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq involving “commitments or risks affecting the nation as a whole”, including a status of forces agreement (SOFA), that is not a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate under Article II of the Constitution or authorized by legislation, does not have the force of law.
Unfortunately, this Administration has made clear that it will cling to its failed Iraq policy until it leaves office. And now, with this agreement, President Bush is attempting to create a long-term presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including the possibility of establishing permanent bases there.
Senator Clinton has consistently opposed the creation of permanent bases in Iraq. In 2006, Congress placed a restriction on the use of any funds to establish bases in Iraq. Last week, Senator Clinton wrote President Bush to advise him that this agreement must not commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq, and must include a commitment to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Today she called for him to agree to get Congressional approval before completing the agreement.
President Bush has attempted to expand the power of the Executive Branch more than any President since World War II. Senator Clinton’s legislation reaffirms the fundamental constitutional principle of the separation of powers. It will prevent President Bush from thwarting the will of the American people by prolonging this war, while ensuring that our Constitution is respected.