New Petition Asks White House To Submit ACTA To The Senate For Ratification

from the as-required-under-the-constitution dept

As we noted in our post about people just discovering ACTA this week, some had put together an odd White House petition, asking the White House to “end ACTA.” The oddity was over the fact that the President just signed ACTA a few months ago. What struck us as a more interesting question was the serious constitutional questions of whether or not Obama is even allowed to sign ACTA.

In case you haven’t been following this or don’t spend your life dealing in Constitutional minutiae, the debate is over the nature of the agreement. A treaty between the US and other nations requires Senate approval. However, there’s a “simpler” form of an international agreement, known as an “executive agreement,” which allows the President to sign the agreement without getting approval. In theory, this also limits the ability of the agreement to bind Congress. In practice… however, international agreements are international agreements. Some legal scholars have suggested that the only real difference between a treaty and an executive agreement is the fact that… the president calls any treaty an “executive agreement” if he’s unsure if the Senate would approve it. In other words, the difference is basically in how the President presents it.

That said, even if Obama has declared ACTA an executive agreement (while those in Europe insist that it’s a binding treaty), there is a very real Constitutional question here: can it actually be an executive agreement? The law is clear that the only things that can be covered by executive agreements are things that involve items that are solely under the President’s mandate. That is, you can’t sign an executive agreement that impacts the things Congress has control over. But here’s the thing: intellectual property, in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, is an issue given to Congress, not the President. Thus, there’s a pretty strong argument that the president legally cannot sign any intellectual property agreements as an executive agreement and, instead, must submit them to the Senate.

This is why Senator Wyden has asked the President to explain why Congress has been cut out. Scholars have noted their concern that if allowed, this will open the door to allowing the president to regularly route around Congress on international agreements. Even more amusing, Vice President Joe Biden, back when he was just Senator Joe Biden, was one of the most outspoken critics of an attempt by President Bush to use an executive agreement on a weapons treaty — forcing Bush to take the agreement to the Senate. Yet here, he stays quiet.

Either way, it looks like folks have figured this out, and there’s now a new White House petition, demanding that ACTA be brought to the Senate before it can be ratified/signed by the US. This petition should be a lot more interesting than the other one if it gets enough signatures (so encourage people to sign, please!).

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Comments on “New Petition Asks White House To Submit ACTA To The Senate For Ratification”

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61 Comments
Guess Who says:

Re: before it can be signed by the US?

Article II, Section 2, paragraph two of the United States Constitution says that ALL treaties signed by the President must be ratified by the US Senate (see: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html ).

A treaty is simply a formal agreement signed between two or more nations (see: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/treaty ).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

These are slightly different, but essentially asking for the same thing. In the one you linked they are saying that it is an executive agreement and we should not be apart of it. In the one Mike linked they are challenging the legitimacy of the ‘executive agreement’ and saying that it should be forced to the Senate instead of allowing Obama to get away with this.

Anonymous Coward says:

As I’ve been saying for a while now:
There is the Republican Philosophy and the the Republican Party, which does little more than pay lip service to the philosophy.
There is the Democratic Philosophy and the Democratic Party, which does little more than pays lip service to the philosophy.
And at this point I’m finding it hard to figure out what party stand where, the keep playing dozedo so much.

I fail to see how this president is really any sort of improvment over the one we had for the previous 8 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ladies and gentlemen, the petition has already reached and gone beyond the required 25,000 signatures. Here is my challenge: Every day from now till February 20th, I want to see an additional 25,000 signatures. EVERY DAY. And! just for fun, sign this thing too:

http://www.petitiononline.com/stopacta/petition.html

If they view new-age methods of protest as “not counting,” then let’s hit them with the tried and told methods they’re legally required to acknowledge.

Call me Al says:

The straw that broke...

I find this quite amusing really. For years the content industry has had the run of the Congress, the Whitehouse etc because of the general apathy of the voters in the US.

With SOPA and PIPA though they seem to have gone a step to far. They woke up the voters who suddenly looked around and thought “Hang on a minute. We’re getting screwed here.” and who then campaigned accordingly.

Flush with the apparent victory over SOPA those newly awoken voters, not yet ready to return to their slumber, looked at their surroundings and noticed other things that they disliked, with one of them being ACTA.

The greed and control-freakery of the RIAA and their ilk has gone too far and now they should be punished for it. Just because voters are apathetic for much of the time doesn’t mean you can take advantage of them with impunity.

Violated (profile) says:

Re: The straw that broke...

I don’t think things our quite as you put it.

For a long time we have been at the end of the “whipping stick” and simply defending ourself as best we can. Hiding has worked best there.

What happened with SOPA is that we got so mad that we took the whipping stick away from them. This turned out to be quite a surprise when we have just realised our true strength.

Obviously it is not a good idea to hand the means of our punishment back to the people who would flay us to an inch of our lives… had the old woman named Congress let them.

So now we are prancing around swooshing this stick. Point it here and gab it there. Getting a feel and building up courage.

We all know what needs to be done. If we are to be left alone to a peaceful life then we have to turn this whipping stick against those who once attacked us and hurt us.

And when that counter attack finally begins it will be brutal. An event they will remember for decades to come.

Anonymous Coward says:

Executive Agreements should ALL be declared unconstitutional, not just this one.

The whole reason executive agreements were thought up is so presidents could secretly agree to military plans/deals with foreign countries without news of it leaking back to our enemies. It was unnecessary to even create a new ‘treaty’ for such a situation, the president is commander in chief of the army, he can just tell military what to do. As long congress has declared war the president can tell the military to invade a foreign country however he wants (declaring war is another thing we need to bring back, presidents have gone to war much more frequently since we stopped declaring war).

Bottom line, executive agreements are nothing but presidential power grabs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Exec. Agreement/Treaty Distinction

Just to clarify, the fact that another country calls an international agreement a “treaty” while the US calls it an “executive agreement” is perfectly normal. The reason is that the distinction between executive agreements and treaties is a purely-US thing, based on how our Constitution divvies up foreign relations powers between the branches of gov’t.

In other words, this is entirely a question of US law, not international law. Generally speaking, all international agreements are called treaties for purposes of international law, but member States are free to call them whatever they like for domestic purposes.

I don’t mean to say that ACTA is or isn’t an executive agreement versus a treaty for US purposes, but just that how other countries treat the agreement for their own domestic purposes is irrelevant.

This is separate from the question of how much leeway Art. 2.1 gives countries when they implement ACTA.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘Please Submit ACTA to the Senate for Ratification as Required by the Constitution for Trade Agreements’

a hell of a lot of signatures needed for this petition. however,

‘End ACTA and Protect our right to privacy on the Internet’

and the

Investigate Chris Dodd and the MPAA for bribery after he publicly admitted to bribing politicians to pass legislation

petitions are passed the required numbers. outcomes will be interesting!

Swan says:

I immediately signed it as soon as I read the article, and I also posted it on facebook in hopes of getting some of my friends to sign it, too. I hope that this will not just get tossed aside, as this is a highly important issue on copyrights and intellectual properties and the way they’re viewed internationally. They’ll have 50,000 signatures regarding ACTA (even though some of them will be the same people signing both, but not all of them), I don’t think this is something that can easily be ignored.

Anonymous Coward says:

Correct me if I'm wrong...

Maybe the reason Obama’s trying to go around Congress in the first place is the “fact” that he believes he couldn’t get anything done because Congress kept cock-blocking him when he wanted to try to fix the economy.

Frustrated with being constantly denied by the Republican majority, he signed ACTA so he’d finally be able to accomplish the things that he had promised to do when he got elected in the first place (without the constant party barrier he’s had to deal with).

If I’m wrong, could someone please explain what the real situation is to me? I know this could have serious ramifications in the future, but I don’t understand what they are…

John Doe says:

Re: Correct me if I'm wrong...

Revisionist history much? The Dems had a super majority for 2 years and ran the whole shooting match. They could have done anything they wanted and what did the choose to do? Pass the 2 biggest spending bills in the history of man. Did they do anything to pay for those bills such as tax reform? Nope. Now they want to make it an election year issue. Guess why that is? Two reasons:

1. The Dems are as rich as the Repubs and don’t want to pay any more taxes than they have to.

2. The poor are their tax base and it has been shown that as people make more money they tend to become conservative. You can’t have your voter base not depending on you for table scraps now can you? So the Dems pay lip service to the poor huddled masses all the while working to keep them poor and huddled.

I am not saying the Repubs don’t have their own problems, but the myth of the Dems being for the little guy has to end.

Anonymous Coward says:

This current president has done all that he can to get around the constitution and congress remember this is a so called constitutional that said that the constitution was a list of negative liberties.
Most of the things that the government does now are not allowed by the constitution.
Why did it take an amendment to ban alcohol, but when the marijuana tax act was declared unconstitutional all that congress did was create a drug law that allowed a non elected paper pusher to say what drug was good and what was bad.
The president is now doing the same thing to government without the action of congress.
This is whats called a dictatorship and the president now has the power to have the military lock up anyone without “you shall have the body”.

mischab1 says:

Re: Tried to sign

Someone else said the problem was enabling JavaScript, but I’m not real sure. I had the same problem you are having on Monday and I was using vanilla Chrome. Today the site is working just fine. Same computer, same browser, etc.

Did you change your password today? The only thing I know that was different for me is I had forgotten my password and had to reset it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Contacted my Senators

Georgia man here, decided to send emails to my senators, though I’m wondering if EMAIL will be given much consideration, considering these are more conservative guys, though I did drill into them that the president is hiding this from the Senate and that this IS big government.

Unlike SOPA/PIPA, this affects more than just the tech industry and needs to be shot down. ANY industry where patents/copyrights could be involved could feel the chokehold of ACTA.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are those of us who do delve into “consitutional minutiae”, and to many us it is not at all clear that this is a “treaty” requiring the advice and consent of the Senate as specified in Article 2, Section 2 as some urge is the case.

Merely by way of example, just as the President may not intrude upon constitutional powers granted specifically to Congress, neither may Congress intrude upon powers granted specifically to the President. Each operates within their respective spheres of authority.

Just as some urge that Article 2, Section 2 should govern, there are contrary opinions that ACTA is within the independent authority conferred upon the President by Article 1, Section 1.

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