Saturday, September 5, 2015

When No Means Yes

Lately have been pretty busy with work and other pursuits, and disinclined to follow politics too closely. But sometimes I really can't help myself. I'll admit, at first the Iran deal was kind of a ho-hum thing for me. I mean really, what difference does it make? <I am coming to like that phrase just a little too much>. I came to the conclusion that I think most people did. It was an awful deal negotiated by mostly incompetent people, and there was no way a Republican controlled Senate would let it stand. No Worries.

Then I heard the middle of this week that the Democrats in the Senate had garnered 34 votes and it was going to pass. Huh? Lets see.. what does the constitution say about that:
(Article 2, Section 2) He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur
 Let's do the math on that, because these things all have to be all exact and stuff since this is lawyer business (Congress being in the business of making laws and such). First of all, how many Senators are there in the Senate? Probably like hundreds.. Back to the Constitution:
(XVII Amendment) The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State
So that's two per state, (checking Google to make sure Texas is still a state and Puerto Rico isn't.. yep!) 50 states:
2 X 50 = 100
100 Senators. Whew! Now we are ready to do real math. Let's assume for a minute that all those Senators are on the job, not off playing golf, getting mani-pedi's, or their dogs tails trimmed. Being a Senator is an important business, and voting on stuff is what they are paid the big bucks for, especially something as important as a rogue nation being allowed to get civilization destroying weapons. So lets say they are all there to vote. For a treaty to stand, how many senators must vote to ratify it?
 100 X 2/3 = 66.6666666666(etc.)
 So unless a Jihadi sneaks into the Senate chamber, chops off the head and one arm of a Senator and throws it up in the air during a vote, assuming a non-corpulent senator where a head and an arm would comprise 66.6666666(etc.)% or more of a Senator (swelled heads being common in the Senate), that means that 67 out of 100 Senators need to say Yes to a treaty before it is agreed to. So lets do the math on that:
34 = 67
Nope! I may not be the best engineer in the world, but I am pretty sure that's not right. If you are like me, you are scratching your head right now, trying to figure out how this treaty got approved.

I did a little more reading on the subject. It turns out that the the thing they voted on wasn't a resolution to approve the treaty, but one to disapprove the treaty. Now here's where the logic of this thing gets really twisted. It seems that since they passed a disapproval, the President can veto their disapproval. If the Senate and the House can't override the veto, then their resolution to disapprove is disapproved, and the treaty is approved. Wait WHAT?

Yeah, it took me a few readings of that too to understand it and I just wrote it. Let's try it in a big bold font and see if it makes more sense:
If the Senate and the House can't override the veto, then their resolution to disapprove is disapproved, and the treaty is approved
Nope.  Still not making sense. Perhaps I missed something. Wait, what does it take to override a veto? Maybe that's it. Back to the Constitution:
(Section 7) Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.  If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law
So, borrowing from the above math, the Senate needs 67 Senators to disapprove the disapproval of the disapproval or the treaty will be ratified (or something). If just 34 (more than 1/3 of the Senate) Senators vote to disapprove the disapproval of the disapproval of the disapproval, the treaty will be ratified, as plainly stated in the Constitution (or something like it somewhere).

That leads me to two little thought experiments. The first is this. As crazy as this sounds, what would have happened if the Senate had done nothing with the treaty? Would that be approving it? It's not like that has every been done, right? Actually it has. This State Department listing has like 38 treaties that the Senate has let sit idle, the oldest wasting away since 1949. Important stuff like a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Avoidance of Double Taxation With the Duchy of Luxembourg. So is:

(a failed disapproval of a treaty) ==  (non-action on a treaty) == (failed approval of a treaty) 

The result is the same right? Approval has not been done, regardless of how you got to that state. The inner programmer in me who lives and dies every day with the iron rules of logic is jumping up and down, throwing banana peals, violently shaking the the bars of his cage, spitting, and generally wrecking havoc on my frontal lobe, screaming "OF COURSE YOU IDIOT!!!" <I'm going to have to drink some Black Label soon to calm him down.>

The second thought experiment is what if, despite the protestations of crazed monkey programmer trapped my head, a failed disapproval is the same as an approval? In that crazy upside down world (which apparently we are currently living in), there is an upside. Because what is a veto if not a disapproval of a Senate action? What this means is that if the Senate wanted to, they could draft a resolution approving any Presidential veto. If that fails, then the buck stops in the Senate. The President can't veto legislation that never passed! The Senate would have disapproved the approval of the disapproval of the disapproval without having to directly address the veto disapproving stuff. Equal branches of government and all, the underlying legislation would pass on the above created "No Means Yes" principle. The Presidential veto would become meaningless. Champagne glasses clinking all around!

Or there is an even crazier idea. We could just ask the Senators to do their job according to the plain text of the Constitution. Crazier things have been tried and worked. What do you say Senators, why not give it a try? What's the worst that could happen?

Welcome Moon-Nukers, and thanks Harvey for the link! You'll note that I have been lax in my posting here, but I am attempting to correct that. I welcome your comments and suggestions. So by all means, take a few minutes to wonder around, kick the tires, and read my ramblings. If you like what you see, then drop back by. I will be posting at least once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Thanks for dropping by!

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