TIME global trade

Obama’s Trade Agenda Survives Key Senate Procedural Vote

Barack Obama
Pablo Martinez Monsivais — AP President Barack Obama speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

White House trade agenda clears key legal hurdle on its way to becoming law

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate pushed bipartisan trade legislation to the brink of final approval Tuesday in a combined effort by President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders to rescue a measure that appeared all but dead less than two weeks ago.

The legislation cleared a key hurdle on a 60-37 vote, precisely the number needed.

A final vote is expected by Wednesday on the House-passed measure, which would then go to the White House for Obama’s signature.

It is one of several measures comprising Obama’s second-term trade agenda as the administration works to finalize a 12-nation agreement among countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean

Another bill, to provide federal aid to workers who lose their jobs because of imports, is also awaiting approval. The rescue plan hatched last week calls for the Senate to pass that measure and the House to follow suit later this week, just before lawmakers begin a July 4 vacation.

Eager to reassure Democrats who expressed doubt about a GOP commitment to pass the follow-up bill, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement saying the House will vote on it “once it passes the Senate.”

The legislation has the support of the administration and business organizations, who say it is necessary to win lower barriers to U.S-made goods around the world.

Opponents include organized labor and most Democrats in Congress, who argue that past global trade deals have resulted in the large scale loss of American jobs — and claim this time would be no different.

Those differences were reflected on the Senate floor.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the vote demonstrated “we can work together on something that’s important for our country.”

But Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said it would be a “day of celebration in corporate suites.”

The vote in the Senate was similar to an earlier roll call on the same legislation.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a presidential hopeful, flipped his vote from support to opposition, saying it had become “enmeshed in corporate backroom deal making.”

He did not say why he initially voted for it.

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, voted against advancing the bill after supporting its passage on the earlier vote. His office provided no immediate explanation for the shift.

In all 47 Republicans and 13 Democrats joined forces to assure the bill’s progress.

The negotiating authority that Obama seeks is known as “fast-track.” Most recent presidents have said the same power. Without it, the bill’s supporters say, other nations would be highly reluctant to make the type of compromises that are necessary to seal global trade deals, because they fear that Congress would demand additional concessions.

The week’s maneuvering came a little less than two weeks after the House derailed the trade legislation in a revolt triggered by union-backed Democrats and supported by the party’s leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

Originally, the trade negotiating authority and program of aid for displaced workers were part of one bill, but subject to separate votes.

Democrats who normally support the aid turned against it in the House, and voted it down. That temporarily derailed the entire legislation, sending Obama, McConnell and Boehner scurrying to come up with a rescue plan.

The revised approach was to separate the trade bill from the aid measure, and rely on a strong Republican vote to pass one of them, and a strong Democratic show of support to approve the other.

Obama has said consistently he wants both measures to reach his desk, but House Democrats have not yet said if they will try to block the aid program as part of a desperate move to persuade Obama not to sign the trade bill he so eagerly seeks.

Nor has Obama said what he would do if only the trade bill passes, and the aid measure remains stuck because Democrats without support.

TIME intelligence

NSA Program to Collect Phone Records Ends

After a 67-32 vote in the Senate, Obama signed the bill into law

The National Security Agency will lose the ability to collect and store virtually all of American phone records, after the U.S. Senate voted 67-32 Tuesday to reform the secret intelligence collection programs revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden.

The Senate voted to pass a compromise version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that has already passed the House, with the support of President Obama, who signed the measure into law Tuesday night. Under the new law, the U.S. government would stop collecting the phone records, showing date, time and numbers connected. Instead, telephone companies will be required to keep the information, which can then be queried with a court order by intelligence and law enforcement professionals.

Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the vote a “resounding victory for those who plotted against our homeland,” had hoped to resist the House reforms. But McConnell failed to schedule enough time to debate a different bill before several provisions of the Patriot Act, including the phone records program, expired on Sunday night. “He put us in a position to get us something no worse than the Freedom Act,” said Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

McConnell scheduled votes on several amendments to the Freedom Act Tuesday that would have limited the reforms, but they all failed.

Nonetheless, many civil libertarians, including Amash, also opposed the Freedom Act for not going further in limiting the ability of court orders to request large numbers of documents. Under the Freedom Act, requests for information can be made based on a “specific selection term,” which can be an individual, association or an organization, a provision that opponents fear the intelligence community will interpret to once again gather vast amounts of information.

At issue throughout the debate was the history of the specific telephone-record program. It was permitted under the 2001 U.S.A. Patriot Act under a vague provision that allowed the government to request “tangible things” including books, records, papers and documents for an investigation into international terror or clandestine intelligence. Until the Snowden leaks, U.S. officials had concealed the fact that this provision was used to collect records of virtually every phone call made in America.

Asked in 2013 if the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper falsely answered “not wittingly,” in an unclassified Senate hearing. Snowden later said this deception was a major reason for his decision to leak classified material.

The Senate vote ended a tense three days in the Senate, in which Senators arrived home over the weekend only to be forced to stand by as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, obstructed movement on a last-minute effort to pass a short term extension to several intelligence authorities so that the Senate could craft its own bill.

The rebellion of Paul, who forced the expiration of several intelligence gathering powers Sunday night in protest, forced McConnell to act fast to reinstate the authorities. Paul’s procedural moves were able to delay passage of the bill, but only for a couple days.

In the end, he voted against the final bill, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are both also running for President. Republican Ted Cruz voted for the reforms.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who was traveling at the time of the vote, said he would have voted against the reforms. Graham also criticized Paul’s tactics. “There are lines I don’t cross, within my party or without,” he told TIME. “To me, he crossed the line here. He put the country at risk unnecessarily.”

TIME National Security

Here’s What Could Happen If the Patriot Act Expires

President Obama warns of lapses in national security

The Patriot Act is set to expire at 12:01 Monday morning unless the Senate votes to extend it, a week after they failed to reach a deal that would allow the law’s anti-terror protections to remain in place.

President Obama and his national security advisers warn that losing the Patriot Act—which has come under fire from those who have privacy and civil liberties concerns—could weaken the government’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks. “I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away,” Obama said Friday in the Oval Office. “And heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”

That’s why he’s pushing Senators to pass the USA Freedom Act, a compromise bill that would extend some aspects of the Patriot Act while ending the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone records in bulk. Under that reform bill, telecommunications companies would store customer’s metadata in bulk, but the NSA would need specific warrants to get someone’s data. The House passed the USA Freedom Act by a wide margin earlier this month, but some Senators are arguing that the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect American freedom and privacy.

Senator Rand Paul told Politico Saturday that he would refuse to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on the bill. “Tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” he said.

If the Patriot Act expires and the USA Freedom Act is not passed in its place, the government would lose three tools in the fight against terrorism, according to CNN. The NSA would not longer be allowed to collect metadata on Americans and store that data for five years, as they’re currently allowed to do under Section 215, and law enforcement couldn’t get roving warrants to track all of a terror suspect’s devices—they’d have to get individual warrants for each device. And the U.S. would no longer be legally allowed to use national security powers against “lone wolf” terrorists (i.e., not part of a known terror network), a power the government says it has never used. If the USA Freedom Act is passed, those last two powers would stay intact—only the metadata collection would be affected.

Even if the Patriot Act expires, the government could continue using Section 215 provisions in ongoing investigations of terror suspects—they just couldn’t use them in any new investigations. The NSA has been winding down its metadata collection program this week, and is scheduled to sever all connections with phone companies by Sunday afternoon.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that if a deal is not reached, the U.S. could face a “serious lapse” in national security.

TIME Foreign Policy

Senate Passes Bill to Review Iran Nuclear Deal

Sen. Bob Corker
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Bob Corker, Senate Foreign Relations chairman, arrives for a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew in the Capitol on April 14, 2015.

Bill to give Congress oversight of the nuclear plan passes Senate

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that will give Congress a key stake in conversations on the pending nuclear deal with Iran.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have been pushing for oversight of the pending deal given that current proposals include relief from some of the sanctions placed on Iran by Congress. The bill that passed Thursday requires that Congress be able to review and possibly reject any deal the U.S. and world powers make with Iran regarding nuclear weapons. If Congress approves of the deal — or fails to disapprove within a certain timeframe — the President’s deal can move forward.

“No bill, no review. No bill, no oversight,” Sen. Bob Corker said on the Senate floor Thursday. “The American people want the U.S. Senate and House on their behalf to ensure that Iran is accountable.”

The effort to pass the deal, however, was hard wrought. Senators proposed a number of amendments to the bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially signaled would be up for a robust debate. On Thursday, lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement to proceed with a vote without many of the proposed amendments. The only “no” vote came from freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican.

The bill also faced backlash from the White House initially, but in mid April White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the President would be open to signing the compromise bill. The bill will now head to the House of Representatives for a vote.

While the debate continues, however, some lawmakers have signaled their support for the President’s negotiations with Iran. In a letter first reported on by the Washington Post, 150 Democrats urged Obama to “stay on course” and commended the work of world powers so far in the process.

“The stakes are too great and the alternatives are too dire,” the letter reads. “If the United States were to abandon negotiations or cause their collapse, not only would we fail to peacefully prevent the nuclear-armed Iran, we would make that outcome more likely.”

The Washington Post reports that the letter could mean the President has enough Congressional support to override a veto should lawmakers vote to reject the deal once it is released in June.

TIME Jim Webb

2016’s Only Combat Veteran Recalls the Vietnam War

Former VA Sen. Jim Webb Marks The 40th Anniversary Of The Fall Of Saigon At The Vietnam War Memorial
Win McNamee—Getty Images Former U.S. Sen. and Vietnam war veteran Jim Webb (D-VA) speaks during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial April 30, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Jim Webb is a Vietnam veteran, former Navy Secretary and former U.S. Senator

Jim Webb offered a rare sight Thursday. Standing on a grassy knoll overlooking a pond at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the likely 2016 Democratic presidential contender spoke in bitter detail about the the fall of Saigon 40 years earlier.

A “very liberal, anti-war Congress” cut off funding to the South Vietnamese shortly before Saigon fell to the Vietcong, Webb argued. “If our political leaders had done a better job with their duty, we may have seen a different situation in Vietnam.”

But more unusual than the topic — a war Americans increasingly consign to history — was how Webb spoke: as a combat veteran.

Despite an unusually large field, the only veterans among the potential candidates in the 2016 presidential race are Webb and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who flew a transport plane for the Air Force in the 1970s but never saw combat.

To Webb, that experience — along with stints in the Department of Defense and one term as a U.S. Senator from Virginia — makes him unusually qualified, if he decides to run.

“I understand foreign policy and defense policy,” he told TIME after his speech, standing with a scrum of reporters on the grass. “I’ve worked on it every possible way you could do it. I grew up in the military I served in combat. My son served in combat. I spent five years in the Pentagon. I served as a military planner in the region.”

There was a time when it would have been unheard of for the only combat veteran considering a run for president to be an underdog with little chance of winning a party’s nomination. From 1948 to 2008, every single presidential contest featured at least one veteran of the armed forces as a party nominee, many of them decorated war heroes. There was John McCain in 2008, John Kerry in 2004, Al Gore in 2000, Bob Dole in 1996, George H.W. Bush in 1992, and so on.

But in 2012, for the first time in more than 70 years, neither party nominee was a veteran. And in 2016, the same is likely to be true again.

Webb has a long resume of combat credentials. He served as a lieutenant, and then a platoon commander in Vietnam, earning a Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. A Navy account has him capturing Viet Cong soldiers, throwing claymore mines into bunkers, and shielding soldiers from grenades with his own body. He was later assistant Secretary of Defense and U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan.

Military veterans such as Webb aren’t just a rarity in presidential races. Their numbers have declined dramatically among all politicians. In the 92nd Congress (1971-1972), 73% of congressmen were veterans. Today, fewer than 20% of members of Congress have served in the military. On the Supreme Court, only Justice Samuel Alito has served.

That reflects a broader trend in the United States since President Nixon ended the draft in 1973: fewer and fewer Americans have served in the military. Today, 12.7% of all adults are veterans. Among senior citizens, those number are much higher, with more than half of men ages 65-69 having served in the military, and 81% of men over 90 counted as veterans, according to a Gallup poll last year.

Webb’s military past hasn’t made him a hawk. He questioned the Iraq War months before the invasion began in 2003, doubting that a war against Saddam Hussein would help the United States combat terrorism.

But on Thursday, he struck a bellicose tone on the Vietnam War that a non-veteran might hesitate to use. Pointing at the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which lists the name of all the American dead from the war, he said a memorial with the names of the South Vietnamese would be “four times” as big. And then he boasted, “if there was a wall for the communist soldiers who we fought against in those battles, that wall would be 24 times as big as that wall.”

TIME White House

Long Wait for Attorney General Nominee Will Soon Be Over

Loretta Lynch
Susan Walsh—AP Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 28, 2015 prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on her nomination.

Loretta Lynch, the first female African American nominee for U.S. Attorney General, has waited over 160 days for her confirmation vote. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that her wait would finally be over this week, “hopefully” in the next few days.

The historic hold-up ended as Senate negotiators announced an agreement Tuesday on an anti-human trafficking bill containing abortion language anathema to Democrats. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Republicans had agreed to their request not to expand the scope of the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, and added that the lengthy debate was a “contrived fight.” Republican leadership said the Senate would take up the Lynch vote as soon as they passed the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touted the anti-human trafficking bill as a celebratory moment for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“It’s a stark reminder of the countless victims of modern slavery who continue to suffer horrifying exploitation at the hands of human traffickers — a stark reminder of the need to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “It’s a bill that victims groups and advocates have called ‘the most comprehensive and thoughtful piece of anti-trafficking legislation currently pending.’”

The breakthrough comes after President Obama sharply criticized the Senate Friday for stalling the Lynch nomination.

“Enough,” he said. “Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote, get her confirmed, let her do her job. This is embarrassing.”

TIME politics

This Is What the Framers Said About the Senate’s Power to Offer Advice and Consent

The Constitution
Fotosearch / ;Getty Images Facimile of The Constitution For The United States Of America

But what did they really want? No one can be sure

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General, has been awaiting senatorial confirmation for almost five months. The second clause of Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution states that presidential appointments of “public Ministers and Consuls” depend on “the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” and Republicans in the Senate are jealously guarding their power by denying consent.

The same clause also states that presidential treaty-making powers are subject to “the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Forty-seven Senate Republicans place such stock in their constitutional power that they pointed it out to “The Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In weeks to come, this corps will be offering President Obama a full dose of advice as it withholds consent for the nuclear deal with Iran.

“Advice and Consent”—what, exactly, did the framers have in mind?

That’s what members of the First Federal Congress tried to figure out, and they stumbled from the start—even though half of the first Senate’s twenty members were framers themselves, along with eight representatives in the first House.

On June 16, 1789, a Tuesday, the House of Representatives considered the framework for a Department of Foreign Affairs, to be headed by a secretary who would be “removable from office by the President of the United States.” This phrase, which followed a list of the secretary’s duties, excited far more interest than the duties themselves, and Alexander White of Virginia moved to strike it out. White and several others reasoned that “if the Senate are associated with the President in the appointment, they ought also to be associated in the dismission from office.” Based on logic alone, Congress had “no right to deprive the Senate of their constitutional prerogative.”

This was also sound policy, they argued. Senators served longer than the president in order to provide stability. (“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades,” the 47 senators informed Iranian leaders.) “A change of the Chief Magistrate, therefore, would not occasion so violent or so general a revolution in the officers of the Government, as might be expected if he were the sole disposer of offices.”

James Madison disagreed. The Constitution was “silent” on the matter, he noted, but the first sentence of Article II stated, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President.” Each branch was to remain distinct unless otherwise stipulated, and although the Constitution did allow some instances of shared power, whenever these were not explicitly stated, executive functions, including removal of executive officers, must revert to the executive department, headed by the president.

Like his opponents, Madison argued that his approach was not only constitutionally sound but also good policy. If the president required the concurrence of the Senate before removing an executive officer, that officer could ensure his tenure in office by courting the approval of the majority of senators. The secretary of foreign affairs and other such officials would come under the sway of legislators, and executive accountability would be lost. Department heads could endure in office indefinitely, while the president had to stand for reelection every four years. The entire notion of a single chief executive would thus be undermined—in Madison’s dramatic words, “the power of the President” would be reduced “to a mere vapor.”

The dispute continued. With the original document “silent,” each representative had a chance to say his piece, and many did. Speakers on both sides vied with each other for who could best convey the overwhelming sense of gravitas. “The decision that is at this time made, will become the permanent exposition of the constitution; and on a permanent exposition of the constitution will depend the genius and character of the whole Government,” Madison said. “I own to you, Mr. Chairman, that I feel great anxiety upon this question … because I am called upon to give a decision in a case that may affect the fundamental principles of the Government under which we act, and liberty itself.” Not to be outdone, Georgia’s James Jackson declared, “The liberties of my country may be suspended on the decision of this question,” but top honors probably went to Virginia’s Richard Bland Lee. “The day on which this question shall be decided will be a memorable day, not only in the history of our own times, but in the history of mankind,” Lee predicted. “On a proper or improper decision, will be involved the future happiness or misery of the people of America.”

Notwithstanding the hyperbole and seemingly pervasive sense of self-importance, this was in fact an issue of lasting significance. If Congress decided one way, any department head, with skillful navigation, could create a fiefdom that might rival the office of the presidency and last through multiple presidential administrations; if it decided the other way, department heads would be under the direct command of the president, and there would in fact be a single chief executive.

Late on Friday afternoon, after four full days of debates (outlined in 125 pages of the Annals of Congress), the motion to strike “to be removable from office by the President of the United States” failed by a vote of 20 to 34. No other phrase, clause, or sentence commanded such attention or excited such passion during the First Federal Congress; even the Bill of Rights, the lack of which had almost doomed the Constitution, failed to occupy Congress as fully as the great removal debate.

And that debate was not yet over. After passing the House, the president’s power to remove the secretary of foreign affairs (and by implication other department heads) was taken up by the Senate, where it faced tougher resistance. Senators, unlike representatives, had a stake in the matter: they would gain immeasurable influence over the governmental apparatus if they won on a share of removal power. The Senate debate commenced on July 14 and lasted three days, but because the Senate met behind closed doors, the only record of their debates can be found in the colorful journal of Senator William Maclay, from Pennsylvania. By his accounting, Vice President Adams played a major role, not by making speeches but by cajoling wavering senators. “Everybody believed that John Adams was the great converter,” Maclay wrote, and Adams did more than convert. The final vote was ten in favor and ten opposed, so Adams, exercising for the first time his Constitutional authority as presiding officer of the Senate to break a tie, settled the matter in favor of the president’s exclusive removal power. For want of a single vote in the Senate, the federal government’s balance of powers would have been fundamentally altered.

Less than a month after the removal debate, the other “advice and consent” clause faced its first challenge. President Washington wanted to stabilize relations with Indian nations on the southern borderlands so they wouldn’t ally with Spain, which controlled the Mississippi River. Today, we assume that the president first concludes a treaty and then brings it to the Senate for “consent.” At the time, though, Washington and anybody else who took the Constitution at face value reasoned that “by and with the advice … of the Senate” required him to seek senatorial input before or during treaty negotiations, not just afterwards.

So on the morning of August 22, 1789, a Saturday, President Washington and Henry Knox, acting Secretary of War, entered the Senate chamber to seek that body’s advice. Washington composed a letter explaining the recent history of white-Indian relations in the region, followed by an extensive list of specific issues he wished senators to consider—a dozen concerning the Creeks and three that addressed relations with Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws.

According to William Maclay, Washington handed his introductory remarks to John Adams, who read them aloud. Adams “hurried over the paper” in such a manner that nobody could hear: “Carriages were driving past, and such a noise, I could tell it was something about ‘Indians,’ but was not master of one sentence of it.” Robert Morris asked Adams to read the letter again, and then, immediately, Adams repeated the first item and “put the question: ‘Do you advise and consent, etc.?’ ” When nobody rose to speak, Maclay, who relished the role of gadfly, stepped up. If he had not done so, he worried, “we should have these advises and consents ravished, in a degree, from us.”

“The business is new to the Senate,” Maclay said. “It is of importance. It is our duty to inform ourselves as well as possible on the subject. I therefore call for the reading of the treaties and other documents alluded to in the paper before us.” Although Washington evinced “an aspect of stern displeasure” at this attempt to slow down the process, senators began to address the items point by point. There were so many documents to be read and points to be considered, however, that they decided to send the matter to a committee and take it up at their next session, two days hence. “This defeats every purpose of my coming here,” Washington reportedly said. The president then “cooled by degrees,” but he departed soon thereafter with “a discontented air.”

Washington’s appearance on the Senate floor was a flop by anybody’s standards. Maclay thought it inappropriate for the president “to bear down our deliberations with his personal authority and presence,” while Washington must have been equally displeased. He was no stranger to seeking advice, but not in a venue such as this. On countless occasions during the Revolution, the Commander-in-Chief had convened his war council; never did he take that body’s advice lightly, and often he allowed it to overrule him. Then, he was dealing with colleagues who shared both the information he had at his disposal and a certain level of professional expertise relevant to the items under consideration; now, members of the Senate were ill informed and not particularly conversant in the matters placed before them. Collectively, they saw themselves as a deliberative body; individually, each valued philosophical correctness and speechifying, sometimes at the expense of taking action. Was the upper house of the legislature really the right body to issue advice? And even if it were, what was to be gained by the president sitting through the arduous process?

“Advice and consent” is a handy phrase, but the brief encounter on August 22 revealed that offering advice and granting consent are two very different activities. To give meaningful advice, senators would have to understand the intricacies of councils with Indian and European nations. A handful of delegates to the Federal Convention had wanted to create an executive council to handle such matters, but the idea never gained traction. Instead, senators were assigned the role of advisors, and this proved unworkable the first time it was put to the test.

In truth, the framers had not thought through how “Advice and Consent” might work in treaty-making, much as they had failed to stipulate who had the power to dismiss “public Ministers and Consuls.” This is understandable. Neither of the “Advice and Consent” stipulations was placed on the floor of the Federal Convention until September 4, 1787, after delegates had been deliberating for over three months; by then they were in a rush to adjourn, and they would do so thirteen days later. The Committee of Detail’s draft, submitted on August 6, had stipulated: “The Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and to appoint Ambassadors, and Judges of the Supreme Court.” That draft, too, had stated that the president would be selected by Congress and serve a non-repeatable 7-year term. When a committee consisting of one delegate from each state restructured the entire edifice on September 4, the rest of the framers were so overwhelmed that they discussed the many changes only briefly. On September 7 James Wilson suggested giving the House as well as the Senate a role in ratifying treaties, but only Pennsylvania, his own state, liked the idea. The same day, Wilson and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina argued against involving the legislature in executive matters, but their concern was quickly dismissed. In short order, state delegations approved both the treaty-making and appointment clauses unanimously. That was all the attention “Advice and Consent” received at the Federal Convention.

Through the turbulent 1790s Americans tried to sort this out, dividing along partisan lines much as we do today. In 1793 Alexander Hamilton, writing as Pacificus, argued that the executive department, without the Senate, was the sole “organ of intercourse between the Nation and foreign Nations,” although five years earlier, writing as Publius in The Federalist #75, he had stated that it was “utterly unsafe and improper … to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.” In 1795 opponents of Jay’s Treaty argued unsuccessfully that the treaty was invalid since the Senate had not been asked for its advice; further, they claimed it required the approval of the House as well as the Senate, since only the House was empowered to initiate the appropriation of funds that Jay’s Treaty required. The founding generation seemed as confused about such matters as we are today; then, as now, constitutional arguments were conjured to facilitate desired political outcomes.

All of which leaves us on our own, more so than many would prefer. Perhaps the greatest flaw with the doctrine of Original Intent is that the framers, individually and collectively, were not always clear in their own minds what they intended. They had ideas, they constructed drafts, they debated and changed these, and in the end they settled for the last draft standing, admitting as they granted their assent that flaws would emerge and future citizens would have to work things out, as we must do now.

Ray Raphael’s most recent books are “Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) and “Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right” (The New Press, 2013). The tenth anniversary revised edition of “Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past” was published by The New Press in 2014.

TIME 2016 Election

John McCain to Run for Senate Re-Election in 2016

John McCain
Andrew Harnik—AP Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, March 26, 2015, on the situation in Yemen.

The "maverick" Senator will be 80 by Election Day 2016

Republican Sen. John McCain isn’t ready to throw in the towel yet. The “maverick” Senator announced Tuesday that he will run for what would be his sixth term in office in 2016.

“I have decided to run for re-election,” McCain said in an interview with NBC News. “I’m ready, I am more than ready. In some ways, I am eager.”

McCain has served in the Senate since 1986 when he succeeded Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. He currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, an ideal job for the former serviceman, and has run for president twice— in 2000 and in 2008, when he gained the Republican Party’s nomination.

McCain could face a challenge from conservatives who think he’s been too liberal, including those in his home state. “I have to convince the voters all over again of Arizona,” he said. “But I will stand on my record but more so, I will stand on what I can do for Arizona and the nation.”

The senator has another factor weighing against him: his age. McCain, 78, will be 80 by November 2016. He told NBC he’s up for the time intensive labor that goes into working on Capitol Hill. In fact, he said, it’s in his genes. “I’m happy to tell you my mother is 103-years-old and she’s doing well,” McCain said.

Watch the full interview at NBC.com.

TIME Senate

Harry Reid: No Regrets Over False Romney Charges

"Romney didn't win, did he?"

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has no regrets with falsely accusing Mitt Romney of paying zero taxes for ten years during the 2012 presidential elections.

“So the word is out that he has not paid any taxes for ten years,” Reid said on the Senate floor in August 2012. “Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t.”

Under criticism and repeated denials by Romney, Reid later put out a statement backed by an “extremely credible source,” which turned out to be billionaire Jon Huntsman, Sr, the father of the former Utah governor and Romney rival, according to Double Down by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. PolitiFact rated Reid’s allegation “Pants on Fire.”

When asked about his comments in a new interview by CNN’s Dana Bash, Reid, who recently announced he would retire in 2017 after his term is up, rebuffed those who said his attacks were “McCarthyite.”

“Well, they can call it whatever they want,” Reid said. “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Early Retirement Announcement Shows How Much He Likes to Plan Ahead

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

The Senate minority leader will not seek reelection in 2016

By announcing early that he will not run for reelection next fall, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has freed up party resources that might have been spent on what would have been a tough race for other elections — a major reason behind his early decision, as he told the New York Times. That kind of planning ahead is not unusual for the minority leader.

Reid’s personal background might not peg him as a super planner: as TIME explained in a 2004 profile, he was once an amateur boxer, the son of “a hard-drinking gold miner.” (His mother’s pay came from taking in laundry from brothels.) But he devoted himself to finding stability, including through a conversion to Mormonism, and ended up the kind of person who famously carries around notecards on which to record every promise he makes, with the idea that he’ll later be able to record when he fulfills them.

One of the best illustrations of that forward-looking nature was explained in that same 2004 article, in which TIME’s Douglas Waller laid out how the Senator prepared for a filibuster:

Harry Reid is the kind of adversary who might just wear you down. Last year, for example, the Nevada Senator staged a one-day filibuster, standing on the Senate floor and talking for eight hours and 35 minutes straight to put majority leader Bill Frist hopelessly behind schedule on other bills that he wanted to rush through before the Thanksgiving recess. Reid planned everything carefully, down to his diet. So he wouldn’t be forced to go to the bathroom and lose his right to the floor, he ate only a slice of wheat bread and a handful of unsalted peanuts for breakfast, kept Senate pages from refilling the water glass at his desk and made sure he sipped only half of it during the day.

One thing he can’t plan, of course, is the one thing that many Washington-watchers will wonder most: who will take his place as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Read the full 2004 story, here in the TIME archives: Herding the Democrats

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com