President Obama appears to have won another round in the high-stakes domestic battle that is the Iran deal. The Bob Corker-Ben Cardin bill that passed Senate Foreign Relations the other day giving Congress the ability to review the deal once it’s cut seemed like a victory for opponents of the deal; but by the end of the weeks neoconservatives were scrambling, because they sensed the legislation doesn’t give opponents much power to stop a deal.
As J Street’s Dylan Williams said, there’s
growing realization that opponents of
#irantalks were outmaneuvered on Corker bill compromise
They’re figuring it out!
Bill Kristol suggests the bill is a trap and says Republicans have to do more to block the deal now:
[T]he fact that the legislation allows action only after the deal is signed, and then for a short period of time, makes it of questionable effectiveness.
What we do know is that the Corker-Cardin legislation is unlikely to be enough. In fact, it can be a trap, if it encourages Congress to otherwise back off until a deal is signed—and then sets up a process arranged to make it difficult to disapprove a bad deal once signed. The key is to work to stop the deal from being signed. This requires putting pressure on the weak points of the framework agreement and introducing into the legislative equation other unacceptable aspects of Iranian behavior.
His battle cry for Republicans:
In such circumstances, a great political party has to have the courage to oppose, to obstruct, to delay . . . and defeat the deal.
Jim Lobe has a post saying that neoconservatives are “clearly unhappy with the Corker bill.” He relates that the Wall Street Journal “exuded disappointment even in its sub-head: ‘Congress will get a vote but the President still has a free hand.’” While J Street’s spokesperson says The Journal is saying that Obama “snookered” the Republicans.
Lobe reports that when the bill comes to the floor, Republican senators are likely to push aggressive amendments to the legislation aimed at killing the Iran deal now, not later. One of those measures is Marco Rubio’s demand, echoing the Israeli Prime Minister, that Iran recognize Israel’s “right to exist.”
Will [Marco] Rubio and [Ron] Johnson offer their amendments when the Corker bill comes to the floor? Certainly, Kristol and the Journal appear to be calling for that. It was one thing for Corker to persuade them not to do it in committee. But can Mitch McConnell restrain them, especially given the likely encouragement of Kristol and wealthy donors like [Sheldon] Adelson and Paul Singer who appear to stand behind him? Rubio already suggested after Tuesday’s committee vote when he sat on his hands that he would take it to the floor: “I wanted there to be an amendment on this where the president has to certify to Congress that Iran’s leaders have publicly accepted Israel’s right to exist at a minimum. This is an issue that we’re going to have to talk about on the floor as we move forward beyond this place today.”
Of course, any such attempt could garner solid Republican support ensuring its approval, but, because it’s clearer than ever that the supporters of such an effort want to kill the deal a la Kristol protégé Tom Cotton (and not just try to get a “better deal”), fence-sitting Democrats are much more likely to rally behind Obama. And that may mean that the bill, as amended, could be successfully filibustered, and Obama would never even have to cast a veto.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post says the bill is so focused on Congress’s reviewing sanctions after the deal is cut in the wummer, and the chances are so good that Obama will be able to veto a Congressional rejection of the deal then, that the neocons’ only hope is that the bill might derail the negotiations now.
[T]he main threat to a deal from Corker is at the front end: It risks derailing a deal before it happens. That is a real threat. But if the deal does happen, under the new Corker framework, Congress probably won’t be able to stop it.
The crucial additional point, however, is that this Corker process is supposed to preclude Republicans from doing anything else to block the deal. It is meant to lock in a single process for determining Congress’ will towards an Iran deal. If Congress fails to stop it with that second vote under the Corker framework, that’s it: The deal moves forward for now, until a much-later Congressional vote to make the lifting of sanctions permanent. That is really significant.
Kristol is trying to reverse that mistake by having Congress obstruct the deal now– making so much trouble that the Iranians walk away:
Congress has to spend the next weeks and months urgently raising questions, demanding clarifications, requesting reports, and trying to insist on various conditions for a deal. Even if such legislation doesn’t become law, it can make a bad deal more difficult for the administration to achieve (perhaps by inducing the Iranians to walk away), or to sell to Congress and the public.
Here is Rubio speaking in New Hampshire on Friday and harshly denouncing the deal:
Our president should never have entered into these negotiations… This president wanted the deal worse than they [Iran] did….
We may have to decide at some point… What is worse, war, a military strike against Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran?… I am not cheerleading for war.. But a nuclear [Iran] is an unacceptable risk for the region and the world.
As for the co-sponsor of the Corker bill, Senator Cardin is not all that much better than the Republicans. He has “sent a letter to President Obama criticizing the administration for suggesting they might circumvent direct negotiations with Israel regarding the deal,” according to Maplight, and he has gotten a lot of money from the Israel lobby.
During Sen. Cardin’s (D-MD) 2012 reelection campaign, contributions from pro-Israel interests totaled $277,042. Pro-Israel interests were his fifth largest contributor during that six-year cycle, 2007- 2012.
During Sen. Cardin’s (D-MD) initial bid for Senate in 2006, contributions from pro-Israel interests totaled $421,923.
Pro-Israel interests were his fourth largest contributor from 2005 – 2006.