In 1987, Joe Biden stood up to Ronald Reagan's attempted increase of executive authority in interpreting what a treaty means, and tried to stop the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as "Star Wars."
The US and Russia had signed the ABM Treaty in 1972, and now Reagan wanted to build his Star Wars. Senators said that this would require amending the ABM Treaty, but Reagan countered that all that was needed was a "reinterpretation."
When opponents pointed out that the ratification hearing on the Treaty in the Senate did not support this reinterpretation, the Administrated cited a record of secret negotiations to support its reinterpretation!
Biden was like, "wtf?! You can have a secret shadow treaty that the Senate approves without its knowledge when it ratifies another treaty." So Biden introduced a resolution known as the "Biden Condition."
Biden attempted to limit the possible meanings of any treaty to "what the Senate understands the treaty to mean when it gives its advice and consent."
The Senate added this condition to the INF Treaty. But after signing that treaty, Reagan was all, "um, no" on the Biden Condition.
After much legal and political wrangling, the Executive Branch conceded that a secret treaty cannot exist because the Senate cannot give its constitutionally mandated consent to something it knows nothing about. The Office of Legal Counsel of the DOJ (yes, the same Office of Legal Counsel one responsible for the recent Torture Memos) issued an opinion stating that the president "could not reach a secret agreement with the other party that substantially modifies the obligations and authorities created by the text of the treaty submitted to the Senate, and then seek to use the secret agreement as a basis for actions inconsistent with the text of the treaty."
Bottom line: Biden stood up to expanding executive power and against the Star Wars program, and he won. Yay!
This post was sourced from Stephen Dycus, et. al., National Security Law (4th ed. 2007).