In November, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship.” Recently, the Bush administration has refused to say whether it believes there is “a constitutional requirement” for the White House to “consult with Congress…in the commitment of U.S. forces in a battle zone.”
Yesterday, Ambassador Ryan Crocker stated that the status of force agreement (SOFA) would be negotiated with Iraq as an “executive agreement,” which he said did not require congressional approval. Crocker also said that the Iraqi government may submit the agreement to its parliament, while the White House refused to do the same for Congress.
During today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino reiterated that, regardless of what the Iraqi parliament might do, the U.S. Congress would be shut out of its advise and consent role:
PERINO: An executive agreement like this isn’t something that is subject to a yes-or-no by the United States Senate. Other countries, under their constitutions, may have that type of rule, but we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to work very closely with Congress.
QUESTION: (inaudible) make an end-run around the…
PERINO: No, it’s not.
QUESTION: Well, why can’t you submit it to Congress?
PERINO: I just explained why.
In fact, there is nothing precluding the White House from submitting the agreement to Congress. Indeed, as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) pointed out yesterday, negotiating such a treaty without Senate approval would represent a break from past practice. In 1951, for example, the Senate ratified a U.S./NATO SOFA to preside over the hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces stationed in over 40 countries, including Germany and Japan.
Conservative columnist George Will wrote recently, “Hundreds of such agreements, major (e.g., NATO) and minor (the Reagan administration’s security commitment to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia), have been submitted to Congress.”