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October 22, 2009
Treaties and the Constitution
On October 14, climate change expert Lord Christopher Monckton gave a presentation in St. Paul, Minn. on the subject of global warming and the threat to U.S. sovereignty if the U.S. joins the treaty to be debated in Copenhagen this December.
Lord Monckton is wrong, however, when he states that the U.S. Constitution says that a treaty takes precedence over the Constitution, that the president can make it U.S. law by signing it, and that nothing can be done to reverse it. The Constitution is an act by We the People. Treaties and federal statutes are the enactments of our representatives. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged the supremacy of the Constitution over both:
It would be manifestly contrary to the objectives of those who created the Constitution, as well as those who were responsible for the Bill of Rights -- let alone alien to our entire constitutional history and tradition -- to construe Article VI as permitting the United States to exercise power under an international agreement without observing constitutional prohibitions. In effect, such construction would permit amendment of that document in a manner not sanctioned by Article V. The prohibitions of the Constitution were designed to apply to all branches of the National Government and they cannot be nullified by the Executive or by the Executive and the Senate combined.
This Court has also repeatedly taken the position that an Act of Congress, which must comply with the Constitution, is on a full parity with a treaty, and that when a statute which is subsequent in time is inconsistent with a treaty, the statute to the extent of conflict renders the treaty null. It would be completely anomalous to say that a treaty need not comply with the Constitution when such an agreement can be overridden by a statute that must conform to that instrument. Reid v. Covert
Nonetheless, the Senate should reject ratification of the treaty and any attempt by Obama to enforce any treaty intended to undermine U.S. sovereignty.