EXTRA: If Not Checkmating the President, At Least Checking Him

If Not Checkmating the
President, At Least Checking Him

By

Leonard Zwelling

         On April 14, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
voted 19-0 in a strikingly bipartisan fashion to insinuate itself on the deal
that President Obama is trying to forge with the Iranian mullahs. Forgetting
for a moment, whether the framework devised by Secretary of State Kerry is good
or bad for Iran, America, Israel or world peace, the Congress was simply not
going to sit on its hands and allow the President and Secretary of State to
come to an accord with our sworn enemies without having some input.

         The bill appears to give Congress 30 days to review the
final agreement, the President another 12 to veto congressional disapproval of
any deal should that occur, and then the Congress has 10 additional days to
override the veto, which would require 67 votes. There is also a lengthening of
the congressional review period to 60 days if the final deal with Iran is not
struck by July 9.  The proposed
legislation also softens the language on the certification that Iran is not
exporting terrorism as a condition of any agreement.

Kudos
go to Tennessee Senator Bob Corker the committee chair and his ranking member
Ben Cardin (D-MD) for acting like the adults in the room and getting a deal
that allows congressional input into one of the most important agreements of
our time while bringing the President on board, albeit reluctantly.

How
did this occur?

This
bill came about because all the members of the Senate want a say in this
international deal. After all they are the duly elected representatives of the
American people. They ought to have it. It also happened because the Senate asserted itself despite the President’s wishes that it would not.

There’s
a lesson for the MD Anderson faculty here.

The
US Congress, and particularly the Senate, must have input into the major
questions facing the country and the possibility of lifting sanctions on Iran
while controlling that country’s access to nuclear weapons is such a question.

I
am going to argue that the strategic direction of MD Anderson, the role patient
care and clinical research play in the institution’s identity, and some check
on the unbridled power of Anderson’s chief executive are questions as critical
to the well-being of MD Anderson as the issues surrounding Iran are to the
American people. Thus, the faculty needs a voice.

So
let me make some suggestions on how the faculty might be as successful as
Senators Corker and Cardin were in standing down President Obama:

1.               
All search
committees for all positions that affect the faculty, and that includes those
for hospital and clinic operations, space distribution, nursing and information
systems must have faculty on the search committee.

2.               
No such
positions can be filled without such a committee at the director level or
above.

3.               
All
executive decisions that affect the faculty will be reviewed by the Faculty
Senate (e.g., promotion and tenure, salaries on grants, women in positions of
responsibility). The Senate has the right to suggest changes and appeal to
Austin should those suggestions be ignored without a satisfactory explanation.

4.               
 The UT System Chancellor will review these
ignored decisions and reply to the Faculty Senate as to his determination of
the validity of the MD Anderson President’s decision.

5.               
One of the
key decisions that must be reviewed every year will be the budget. This will be
a fully itemized and allocated cost and revenue statement that includes all
aspects of the MD Anderson financial house including the foreign entanglements
and the regional centers. It also includes any outrageous increases in salary
for executives.

These
are just some suggestions about how the Faculty Senate can assert itself in
Presidential decisions that affect the MD Anderson faculty. Like the US Senate,
the Faculty Senate ought to do just that—assert itself. They might be
surprised. It could work!

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