Republicans Cave to Obama on Iran Deal
On Wednesday, Republicans declared victory over President Obama after passing a bipartisan bill designed to stifle Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. There’s only one problem: the bill doesn’t stop Obama in any way. In fact, it does the opposite, by granting congressional Democrats an easy excuse for voting to allow Obama to end the sanctions against Iran without political consequence.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) announced the deal on Wednesday, touting his own role in reaching the deal: “The secretary of state was continuing to push back against our role. They came to the right place, ultimately. Right before a 19-0 vote in the committee.” Commentator George Will called the bill a revolt “against presidential Caesarism.”
There were three ways for Republicans to stop President Obama’s Iran deal from the Senate. First, Congress could have passed a veto-proof bill declaring that Obama’s agreement constituted a treaty requiring 67 votes for ratification in the Senate. That, obviously, would have shot the deal to hell, since virtually all Republicans and some Democrats oppose the deal.
Second, Congress could have passed new sanctions right now with a veto-proof majority, or passed a bill with a veto-proof majority requiring that Obama not remove the sanctions without congressional approval. That would have cut the legs out from underneath Obama in his negotiations and ended his ability to unilaterally soften the sanctions regime.
Third, Congress could have insisted on linkage between the nuclear deal and Iran stepping back from its connections to international terrorism. That language would have destroyed any Iran agreement since they continue to pursue terrorism across the Middle East, aggressively pushing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Yemen, among others.
There were three major options to stop Obama. Republicans pursued none of them. Instead, the bill merely states that Obama cannot remove sanctions until after submitting the text of an Iran deal to Congress; Congress then has 30 days to review the deal; Congress must then vote with a veto-proof majority to prevent Obama from ending the sanctions. The onus is now on Republicans to come up with 67 votes to stop Obama, rather than Obama to come up with 67 votes to have a treaty ratified; Republicans would need 67 votes for new sanctions, rather than pressuring Democrats to put in place conditional sanctions prior to the Obama full-scale public relations blitz; Republicans will not be able to cite Iranian terrorism as a reason to sink the deal, given that they removed precisely that language from the bill.
Obama’s executive ambitions know no bounds, so he originally opposed the deal altogether. But there is little doubt that Republicans now face an uphill battle to stop Obama from ending the Iran sanctions unilaterally, despite the celebratory obfuscation now occurring on Capitol Hill. As The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes today:
Mr. Obama can still do whatever he wants on Iran as long as he maintains Democratic support. A majority could offer a resolution of disapproval, but that could be filibustered by Democrats and vetoed by the President. As few as 41 Senate Democrats could thus vote to prevent it from ever getting to President Obama’s desk—and 34 could sustain a veto. Mr. Obama could then declare that Congress had its say and “approved” the Iran deal even if a majority in the House and Senate voted to oppose it.
Another congressional-executive clash; another Obama win. Thus far, Republicans, who were elected in overwhelming majorities in 2010 and 2014, have signed off on watering down sequestration, granted Obamacare funding, and granted funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. What, precisely, are these Republicans good for, if they cannot even pressure Democrats to take a straight up-or-down vote on something as crucial as a Western surrender to Iranian nuclear ambitions?