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National Security & Defense

Kerry Claims ‘You Can’t Pass a Treaty Anymore’ Two Days Before U.S. Ratifies a Treaty

In one of the many mind-bending moments in Secretary of State John Kerry’s congressional testimony in support of President Obama’s Iran deal, he explained that the administration could not treat the deal as a treaty because, well, nowadays it is just too hard to get a treaty approved. In fact, Kerry claimed, “It has become physically impossible.”

Kerry gave this testimony in answer to a question put by Representative Reid Ribble (R., Wis.), who asked why the administration did not consider the international agreement a treaty despite 228 years of compliance with the Constitution’s treaty procedure by administrations of all major political parties. Kerry replied:

Well Congressman, I spent quite a few years trying to get a lot of treaties through the United States Senate, and it has become physically impossible. That’s why. Because you can’t pass a treaty anymore. It has become impossible to schedule, to pass, and I sat there leading the charge on the Disabilities Treaty which fell to basically ideology and politics. So I think that is the reason why.

Less than 48 hours later, Kerry’s subordinate Henry S. Ensher, the State Department’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (the same IAEA deeply involved in the Iran deal), proudly presented to the IAEA the formal United States ratification of a treaty: the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The treaty was just one of four related ones that the Senate has approved in recent years. The other three are the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and two Protocols to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. In fact, not only were the treaties approved; the full Congress this June supplemented the Senate’s approval by enacting supporting legislation that, under the terms of treaties, was necessary before they could be ratified.

In announcing the approval of the treaties on June 4 – i.e., less than two months before testifying that it has become physically impossible to get treaties approved on Capitol Hill – Kerry stated:

The Department of State is now preparing the instruments of ratification of these important treaties for the President’s signature.

I want to personally thank the U.S. Congress, particularly the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, for their efforts on this critically important legislation. It is a laudable example of the good we can accomplish when two branches of government and two parties come together to strengthen our nation’s security. It is also yet another indication that the United States is committed on a bipartisan basis to eliminating the greatest threat to global security: nuclear terrorism.

Last week, just two days after Kerry’s congressional testimony that it is no longer possible for the United States to pass and ratify treaties, Kerry dispatched Ambassador Ensher to the IAEA’s Vienna offices to deliver the U.S. instrument of ratification of the amendment to the nuclear material convention. The IAEA’s Office of Public Information and Communication published an announcement, “United States Ratifies Key Nuclear Security Amendment,” which includes a large photograph of Ambassador Ensher and the IAEA director general Yukiya Amano brandishing the formal ratification documents.


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