Saturday, July 13, 2013

Prez signs H.R. 1151, an Act concerning participation of Taiwan in ICAO

Wind turbines south of Tunghsiao in Miaoli

The White House sent out this press release:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 12, 2013

Statement by the President on H.R. 1151

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1151, an Act concerning participation of Taiwan in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The United States fully supports Taiwan's membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement for membership and encourages Taiwan's meaningful participation, as appropriate, in organizations where its membership is not possible. My Administration has publicly supported Taiwan's participation at the ICAO and will continue to do so. Consistent with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs, my Administration shall construe the Act to be consistent with the "one China" policy of the United States, which remains unchanged, and shall determine the measures best suited to advance the overall goal of Taiwan's participation in the ICAO. I note that sections 1(b) and 1(c) of the Act contain impermissibly mandatory language purporting to direct the Secretary of State to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives and to report to the Congress on the progress of those initiatives. Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my Administration will interpret and implement these sections in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy and to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications.

Brian Benedictus noted that there was a big TECRO (the Taiwan representative office in the US) push for this, remarking:
[TECRO] knew what they were doing---which is setting a precedent--Which is to ask (and receive) support from Congress on Taiwan's international participation in a lesser degree than they should. This was a bad precedent to set, and Taiwan's international space actually got a little smaller tonight.
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7 comments:

Readin said...

" I note that sections 1(b) and 1(c) of the Act contain impermissibly mandatory language purporting to direct the Secretary of State to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives and to report to the Congress on the progress of those initiatives. Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my Administration will interpret and implement these sections in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy and to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications."

While the president has traditionally been the instigator and coordinator of diplomacy, most certainly on the day-to-day basis as a practical matter, I'm not familiar with the section of the American Constitution that actually takes the ability to set guidelines for diplomacy away from Congress.

Although President Obama has shown an unusually wanton disregard for the Constitution and limitations on Presidential power, I'm thinking this case may not be so clear-cut. Does anyone know what section of the Constitution Obama is referring to when he says that Congress can't make laws about diplomacy that the chief executive should execute?

Readin said...

Well, I decided to stop being lazy and google it myself. I was right about it being unclear. Obama has a decent case to make. Congress is empowered:

* To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;


* To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

As for the president:
*He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors...


There is a pretty strong case coming from "He shall have the power...to make treaties..and..shall appoint Ambassadors" On the other hand Congress can regulate international commerce can can make all laws necessary for doing so and for all other powers vested in the government (including the president).

Altogether though I think the president has the better of it (grumble grumble).

Michael Turton said...

Readin, it's apparently a standard disclaimer.

Michael

Tommy said...

Readin, you are looking too hard. The president is the head of the Executive Branch, under which the State Department falls. Therefore he has the constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. Treaties are only formal agreements that come out of diplomacy. Since they bind the whole country into an agreement with a foreign power, they are supposed to be subject to checks and balances. Presidents do not like it when Congress tells them what they should and should not do in the diplomatic sphere because, technically, it is not up to Congress to decide on most diplomatic doings.

Readin said...

Tommy, the American state department is part of the executive branch, but it was created by an act of Congress. Under the American Constitution, the president's primary function is to see that the will of congress is carried out (or "executed"). He is, an "executive". The fact that the Congress gives the president some tools to make it easier for him to do the will of Congress doesn't mean he gets to ignore Congress.

For the president to legitimately ignore the wishes of Congress requires that he have some enumerated authority to do so. If the any American president could just ignore Congress when conducting international affairs, the Iran-Contra scandal wouldn't have been such a big deal.

The Department of Health and Human Services is part of the Executive Branch also, but that certainly doesn't make the President's recent decision to not implement for a year an act passed by Congress and signed by the President Constitutionally valid. Likewise the INS is part of the Executive Branch but that doesn't make legal the President's decision to enforce as though it were law a bill that the President wanted but Congress refused to pass.

I know the constitution used by Taiwan is a bit of a mess, but America has a pretty good constitution; our freedoms and our democracy would be a lot safer if it were followed more carefully.

Brian Benedictus said...

Congress does however, hold the purse strings of the federal government, and it used to use them accordingly. Congress does have the ability to influence foreign policy if it so chooses.

Mike Fagan said...

For the attention of "Readin"...

"At the present time, many people very easily fall in with this type of compromise between a despotic administration and the sovereignty of the people and they think they have sufficiently safeguarded individual freedom when they surrendered it to a national authority. That is not good enough for me. The character of the master is much less important to me than the fact of obedience."

"Democracy In America"; Alexis De Tocqueville - Volume 2, Part 4, Chapter 6 p807 (Penguin Classics, London: 2003). Emphasis added.