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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Netanyahu Visit and the Constitution

Without consulting the president, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.  At The Washington Post, law professor David Bernstein writes that the move is arguably unconstitutional:
Here’s the logic of the “unconstitutional” position: (a) the power to receive ambassadors and public ministers a foritiori includes the power to receive foreign heads of state when they are here on diplomatic business; (b) this power is lodged by Constitution in the executive, and, explicitly given to the executive, Congress can’t exercise it unless at the invitation of the president. There is good reason for this, because while Congress has a role in foreign policy, direct diplmoatic relations with foreign governments are exclusive in the executive, so the nation speaks with one voice–Congress could not have its own State Department, for example; and (c) Netanyahu is coming to speak to Congress on a formal diplomatic mission, not for mere private conversation or consultation, and thus the president has to give his assent, or at least Congress shouldn’t do it over the president’s objection. None of these three points is unassailable, but they do strike me as likely being right.