On Thursday, former President Bill Clinton lashed out on Twitter at President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris Accord, referring to the accord as a “treaty.”
Clinton said Trump made a mistake. But it was Clinton who made a mistake; the accord never was a “treaty.” A treaty, according to the Constitution, would have had to be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. As Senator Ted Cruz has explained:
Article II, Section 2 provides that the President has the “Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” By housing this power in Article II, the Framers designated the treaty power as one of the President’s executive powers — as opposed to one of Congress’s legislative powers. And “virtually every important thinker who influenced the founding generation thought of treaty making as an executive function.” Yet just as the President retains a veto power over Congress’s legislative power, the Senate retains a veto over the President’s treaty power by preventing adoption of a treaty unless two thirds of the Senate approves.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Paris Accord on April 22, 2016, Earth Day. On September 3, 2016, Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order confirming that the U.S. adopted the Accord, but bypassed the Senate entirely.
White House senior adviser Brian Deese said that Obama didn’t need the Senate’s approval, arguing that because it was an “executive agreement," Obama “will use his authority that has been used in dozens of executive agreements in the past to join and formally deposit our instrument of acceptance, and therefore put our country as a party to the Paris Agreement … the Paris Agreement … That’s a process that is quite well-established in our existing legal system and in the context of international agreements and international arrangements. … There is a category of them that are treaties that require advice and consent from the Senate, but there’s a broad category of executive agreements where the executive can enter into those agreements without that advice and consent.”
"Yet just as the President retains a veto power over Congress’s legislative power, the Senate retains a veto over the President’s treaty power by preventing adoption of a treaty unless two thirds of the Senate approves."
Obama simply willfully ignored the Senate in order to pursue his own agenda. Clinton is completely wrong to say that the Accord was a treaty ratified by the U.S. It never was, and Trump is perfectly within his constitutional rights to walk away from it.