Beyond the Cusp

July 29, 2015

Will the Initial Vote in the Houses of Congress Be Meaningless?

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We have the deal of a lifetime, presumably the perfect and deeply complex agreement which if the Administration spokespeople are to be believed, and who would know better than those who fashioned the deal, such that the complex minutia weaves a web of inspections and requirements which Iran will be incapable of extricating themselves without being betrayed by the particulars combined with snap unannounced immediate access inspections at which time any failure to be within the web that has been tediously structured would result in total snapback of the most severe sanctions bringing Iran to its knees; thus Iran will not progress as a nuclear power for at least a decade. But if one has also paid any attention to the celebrations and excessive elation raging out of control through the halls of power in Iran, one might suspect that either the Iranians have not figured out the brilliance by President Obama and the State Department mediators who once again have made an airtight box just as they had with North Korea, as the very same members of the North Korean negotiations committee were once again put into service to similarly fashion an ironclad nuclear deal with Iran. Imagine the shock and awe that will eventually end one side or the other’s elation when the truth shows its hand and either Iran never becomes a nuclear armed power for at the least a decade and a half or does so far more rapidly. Still, despite the unanimous approval of the P5+1 and Iranian Agreement with a chapter seven enforceable ratification which some are claiming makes any vote by the United States Congress potentially meaningless, but is this true?

 

The ratification by the United Nations Security Council will only become an issue if there can be a vote taken which manages to recognize and demand enforcement of United Nations sanctions being reimposed. It would still require the five permanent members, France, Britain, United States, Mainland China and the Russian Federation not to use their veto power to block enforcement, those very same nations who have millions or billions or conceivably trillions of Euros or Dollars in trade deals to vote to end such deals, even should Iran test a nuclear device in the middle of the waters to their south. That is far beyond reasonable and should not be expected unless the Iranian test was over Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and even then it would be doubtful. The other P5+1 (France, Britain, China, Russian Federation and Germany) have already announced their willing compliance with the deal and are ready for full ratification which is waiting on the United States which has a far more complicated approval system than any Parliamentary system which is found throughout most of the world, so, every eye is on Washington D.C. and while the world waits the media are thrashing every conceivable turn of the cards of fate possible to come out of Washington in the next sixty days Congress has set as the limit before they must present their final verdict. So, what comes next?

 

 

Photo of the Lead Negotiators Taken After Agreement Reached with the Smiles on the far left two Iranian Lead Negotiators and neutral bored look by the man in the middle representing the European Union with the two on the right no more aware that they are posing for the picture which will mark them in history than they were during the negotiations themselves while they either are looking at the real winners or posing as if this was an after frat party picture with the thumbs up, who are they kidding?

Photo of the Lead Negotiators Taken After Agreement Reached with the Smiles on the far left two Iranian Lead Negotiators and neutral bored look by the man in the middle representing the European Union with the two on the right no more aware that they are posing for the picture which will mark them in history than they were during the negotiations themselves while they either are looking at the real winners or posing as if this was an after frat party picture with the thumbs up, who are they kidding?

 

 

The United States House of Representatives often limits the debate speaking time to each of the State’s Representatives ten minutes each to express their opinions and attempt to persuade their cohorts before the vote is taken. With four-hundred-thirty-five Representatives that results in four-thousand-three-hundred-fifty minutes of debate or seventy-two-hours and thirty-minutes. That means that if we allow for procedural delays and Representatives speaking beyond their allotted time or outbursts which leaving a mere four hours of time per day this results in a minimum of fourteen and a half days or approximately four weeks before every Representative had made their feelings known. Perhaps this mathematics is why the time allotted for Congressional approval or disapproval to be decided and a final vote taken on the proposed Iran nuclear agreement and the results be made known to the White House and an eager media who will waste no time chewing on every piece of gristle fed to them and pretend that they found the finest filet mignon and then pretend their perception is the finest cut of the votes taken in both houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

 

There are some very unusual conditions stipulated in the Congressional approval of this Agreement which is not a treaty and not exactly just a Presidential decree as the Congress insisted and received oversight, but not merely the usual Senate only ratification required by a normal treaty but because President Obama’s successful labeling unusual and break from norm claiming that arms agreements are not normally treated as a treaty but instead simply demand the straight up majority in both houses rather than the two-thirds approval (sixty-seven of the one-hundred) Senators. President Obama suspected, it would be impossible to receive such ratification from a Senate controlled by a majority Republicans even were it to garner one-hundred-percent support from the Democrats, both Independents who caucus with the Democrats and possibly a half dozen Republicans who honestly believe that the President is to be granted leeway on items pertaining to foreign affairs matters. It was likely beyond any conceivable probability that the President could find a full dozen minimum Republican Senators to vote for the deal, thus it was this frightening reality facing President Obama who decided his sole chance was to invent a new class of agreement where because there were six other nations involved and this presumably made the United States an co-equal partner to an agreement, an executive agreement by a President who was but one amongst many in reaching this agreement making it an agreement amongst executives and thus it was a Presidential Agreement requiring only passage by both houses of Congress. This will presumably provide to grant the President a veto over any vote taken which refused the Congressional approval of the Agreement thus then requiring the Congress to then override the Presidential veto now requiring a two-thirds vote in both houses in order to prevent the Agreement taking effect, a complete reversal of fates. Now, it would appear, there will be required that both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, would be required to attain a two-thirds vote each to override the veto and end the ratification by the United States.

 

Oddly enough there are a number of presumptions which make much of these arguments completely erroneous. Let us look at the realities. The first item that requires investigation is exactly how the wording of the presentation of the Iranian agreement before Congress is read. Any initial investigation one would expect that a ‘Yea’ vote would be in favor of the Agreement and any ‘Nay’ vote would be against the Agreement. So, if the Senate voted fifty-one in favor and forty-nine against while the House of Representatives voted two-hundred-eighteen in favor and one-hundred-seventeen against, then both houses would have approved the Agreement with minimal votes required and the passage would permit President Obama to sign the Agreement placing the United States to be in compliance of the terns, limitations and obligations within the Agreement just as President Obama desires. So, the House and Senate both approve the Agreement even by the narrowest of margins, then there would be no need for any veto and everybody limps away satisfied they had performed their duty as they saw best to be committed.

 

But we all know that what we have been told is that the problems arise should the Congress oppose the will of President Obama and not approve the Agreement. It would make absolutely no difference should the Senate, the House of Representatives or both deny passage to the agreement sent before them by whatever margin, then what comes next. We have been led to believe that President Obama could veto their vote to turn down their initial vote and now place the two Houses of Congress into having to reach a two-thirds vote to override President Obama’s veto by voting by a two thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to have the Congressional advice be heard and President Obama be instructed not to sign the Agreement thus removing the United States from any of the particulars of the Agreement and should this occur, then and only then would the Agreement be kept from becoming binding on the United States. There is one grievous mistake in the reasoning here as long as a ‘Yea’ vote means ratification of the Agreement and a ‘Nay’ vote indicates one is opposed to the Agreement. Once either House of Congress votes against the Agreement and thereby not approving it that is the end of the Iran Nuclear Agreement as far as the United States is officially concerned because the President is not empowered to veto a negative vote. He can only veto those items brought before him as passed legislation by both houses of Congress. In order to have his Iran Deal passed, he must present the deal to both houses for an up or down vote and not propose some finagled legislation asking if they oppose the Iran deal, thus turning approval on its head and making support a ‘Nay’ vote and opposition a ‘Yea’ vote thus making turning down the deal available for him to veto as, despite what he believes, that is not presenting the agreement for a vote by Congress, that is perverting everything that is holy and true about the American confirmation process and turning a negative into a positive and vice-a-versa twisting the affirmation process. By this method it would become near impossible to oppose any appointment or treaty made by a president and makes them a virtual dictator for their time in office and as far as that goes, also impossible to make them relinquish their office claiming their declaration that their removal from the Presidency was itself a threat to national security. The vote over the Iran Nuclear Agreement has to proceed as a ‘Yea’ vote as in favor of the agreement and a ‘Nay’ vote a vote against ratification and thus either house refusing to approve the Agreement would spell the end of the Agreement in so far as the United States would be concerned. The President could ignore that and sign the Agreement but his signature would be meaningless as the courts would override any demand then made under that signature void; thus, all of the Iranian sanctions made by the United States would stand and any monies held by United States banks would remain frozen, period, game-set-match.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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January 21, 2013

Israeli Elections and the Need for so Many Parties

One question often asked about Parliamentary systems of governments is why the countries who have them need to have so many parties while the opposite is asked of the American where people wonder how they can be represented by significantly only two parties. There are of course as many answers to these two queries as there likely are parties in Parliamentary elections. Actually the American elections have numerous parties but the vast number of the so-called third parties never seems to end up making much of a showing with very few historical exceptions. The reason is in countries with parliamentary systems there are many political parties which center themselves on serving a reasonably significant segment of the society and the central issues, sometimes a single issue, which more or less serves only those people. Then there are usually two, or on rare occasions as in the United States three, parties which run on a general platform aimed at the population as a whole. The result is which party will eventually form the governing coalition out of those two main general issues parties and how many, as well as which, of the minor parties will they need to give guarantees to form their coalition. In this manner the people who are loyal to the smaller parties will each be an instrumental part of the ruling coalition and through that membership has an ability to sway, or actually more like force, the major party to pay a price and thus assure their members have their issues addressed. Where in many parliamentary systems one or the other of the main parties will actually manage to gather the necessary seats on their own therefore not finding a coalition necessary, in Israel that has proven quite impossible in recent history and that, I believe, is the uniqueness of the Israeli political landscape which might need some investigation.

The most likely reason that Israel has so many parties which regularly hold what results in being sufficiently significant numbers of supporters in election after election likely has to do with much of the Israeli population having come from such diverse areas, cultures and other determining backgrounds. It might also have to do with the diverse issues confronting Israeli society and the effects it has on the various sectors of the society. Perhaps a couple of examples would shed some light on what I mean. The Green Party in Israel, as in numerous other places, directly addresses largely issues concerning the ecology and issues of sustainability and harmony of life when concerned with pollution and other environmental issues while Shas serves the Sephardic Hasidic sector of the society. The coming Israeli elections will actually witness a passing of one party from its temporary position of prominence and the rise of the next party rising to challenge the perennial top vote getters, Labor and Likud. The party passing back into the background is Kadima which had figured prominently in recent years since its founding but appears to now be fading as it faced some leadership challenges and may be splintering with many of its members returning to their origins. Taking its shot at entering the significant polling parties appears to be the Jewish Home Party. Time will tell if its rise will end up being the passing of the torch on the nationalist side and their becoming a perennial power or if this is simply another political party taking its turn in the limelight. But the real story behind the coming Israeli election is the story that usually is behind them, who will be the heartbreakers who will hold the coalition leading party to slowly roast as they grill them to pay the piper or suffer another election. And that is the one advantage the plethora of smaller parties has in Parliamentary systems, election and campaigning tends to cost them far less so they fear dissolving government less. That may be their true power.

The one oddity that arises on somewhat rare occasions is the unity government where the two main parties decide that for the good of the country they will make an agreement to share ruling the country. These governments give the vision of a balanced, strong government but often it proves to be just an illusion as where in love opposites attract, in politics, not so much. Some of the intrigues in Israeli politics does not revolve around the election or even its results but upon the decision made by a politician who has been chosen to chair the Presidency, a presumably apolitical position currently so politically filled by Simon Peres. This will especially be interesting at the back end of the coming elections as everybody will actually not be assured whether President Peres will give the nod to the leading vote getter or once again allow the second place, or third place should Jewish Home finish their rally ahead of the Labor Party, and give Shelly Yachimovich the first shot at forming a coalition. The one guarantee we can likely count on is that Naftali Bennett will not be asked, short of a decree from above, to form the next coalition. It is not like President Peres doesn’t have a history of allowing the second largest party from making the coalition over the party actually garnering the most seats. The other question which may have a strong bearing on the future of Israel is will the Jewish Home Party garner sufficient seats to make Benyamin Netanyahu’s only possible choice to form a coalition be to include Naftali Bennett in a lead position or include the Labor as well as Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni and Shas Party and then figure how to ride such a multi-headed monstrosity.

In a strictly serious last peek, what would make this election surprising?  It would be astonishing if the merged Likud-Beyteinu Party collapsed sufficiently to not lead the next government. What would not be as surprising is should Labor break twenty seats in the Knesset that they would be allowed to try and form a coalition before giving Netanyahu, what he and others likely would believe, the first chance to form a coalition as head of the leading vote getting party. President Peres would likely claim that Bibi was only leader of Likud and that it only received about twenty seats as well as Lieberman’s Beyteinu Party corralled the remainder. In a metaphysical way that would be karma payback for Netanyahu forming a coalition over Tzipi Livni when Kadima led Likud in the votes department. Anybody think that may have been the lynchpin which once pulled drove her over the edge and her making destroying Netanyahu seemingly her life’s singular goal in life. Then it is anybody’s guess which side Shas would prefer to have leading the coalition they join but one can be assured they will likely be providing the deciding numbers for the next governing coalition. And lastly, is it possible that Benyamin Netanyahu has made a deal to lead the next coalition by promising to not allow Bennett and Jewish Home be included and instead include Yair Lapid, and by some miracle, Tzipi Livni along with Shas and whatever other parties are needed to reach sixty-one members in the coalition. And lastly, would Shelly Yachimovich be able to swallow hard and join in a unity government for the sake of allowing Israel to make the difficult choices which will likely confront the next government. The most puzzling thing is trying to figure out exactly why any practical and sane human being would actually seek to be responsible for what Israel may possibly face in the near future. Whoever is chosen and leads the next Israeli government, though initially believing they have attained a great goal in life, I pray they are still of the same mind by the end of their term as Prime Minister. I do not envy the choices they will need to decide and can only hope their decisions are wise and for the best for Eretz Yisroel going into the future and may that future hold all the promise which we dream about in our prayers. Well, this will definitely be an interesting week, in Jerusalem and in Washington. Washington’s reactions may prove to be the most intriguing and interesting when all is done.

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