Since it’s clear that Congress won’t be rejecting the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, opponents are now trying to diminish its significance. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, now denies that the pact is “binding on the next administration,” and has pledged to repudiate it on his first day as president.
Rubio is wrong. If taken seriously, his position would destroy the binding character of America’s commitments to the IMF, the World Bank, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization. The accords that undergird these institutions, like the Iran agreement, have their foundation in statutes authorizing the president to commit the nation. The Constitution makes these statutes the “supreme law of the land,” binding the country in the same manner as treaties approved by the Senate. The President can no more walk away from them than he can from any other law or treaty.
Congressionally authorized executive agreements have long served as the mainstay of American diplomacy. Since the Second World War, they have provided the basis for 90 percent of America’s international obligations.
Two factors have driven the dramatic ascendance of these agreements. Since only the Senate is involved in ratifying treaties, the House may balk when it is later asked to support the treaty with implementing legislation and funding—leaving the country in default of its legal obligations. In contrast, the statutory route requires a majority buy-in from both houses of Congress from the very beginning.