Kucinich Leads Way As Congress Members Sue President Over Treaty Withdrawal
June 11, 2002 at 4:29 PM EST - Updated July 3 at 1:40 AM
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Thirty-one House members, led by Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, filed suit against President Bush on Tuesday in an effort to block the president from withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
The United States officially leaves the treaty on Thursday, six months after Bush announced his intentions to do so, and the Pentagon is ready to begin work the next day on underground silos for missile interceptors in Alaska.
Kucinich, D-Ohio, the lead plaintiff, said the president does not have the authority to unilaterally withdraw from a treaty and should first seek the consent of Congress. "The Constitution of the United States is being demolished and we need to challenge that in court," he said.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, also names Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell as defendants. The plaintiffs are all Democrats, except for one independent who usually votes with Democrats.
It states that while the Constitution is silent on the role of Congress in treaty terminations, treaties have the status of "supreme law of the land" equivalent to federal laws and that laws can be repealed only by an act of Congress.
"I am troubled that many in Congress appear willing to cede our constitutional responsibility on this matter to the executive branch," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. He tried unsuccessfully Monday to bring a resolution to the Senate floor stating that the president cannot withdraw from the treaty without Senate approval.
Kucinich (pictured, above) last week tried to get the House to vote on a similar resolution, but House Republicans unanimously rejected a motion to bring the issue to a vote. GOP lawmakers generally support the administration's decision to withdraw from the treaty, which prohibited the United States and the Soviet Union from building major missile defenses and has been an impediment to the administration's plans to move ahead with a missile defense system.
The lead lawyer for the House lawmakers, Peter Weiss, said they are asking the court for expedited treatment of their suit. But he said that even if the court does not act by the Thursday withdrawal date, a later decision agreeing that the president must first get congressional consent could be retroactive.
In House debate last week, Republicans argued that past presidents have terminated dozens of treaties without consulting Congress. Kucinich pointed to an 1835 House vote blocking President Jackson from pulling out of a treaty with France.
In 1979 the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., sued President Carter over his decision to terminate a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan when he established diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. The Supreme Court declined to take up the case after an appeals court overturned a lower court's ruling in favor of Goldwater.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)