Iran Hawks Gear Up For One Last Tantrum On Nuke Deal

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The House “Tortilla Coast” conservatives have prevailed again.

Rather than move forward with a longstanding plan to vote to disapprove of President Obama’s Iran deal — an opportunity demanded by congressional Republicans and grudgingly given by the White House — House GOP leaders have acquiesced to conservatives’ plot to derail a vote on disapproval.

The 11th-hour change in course reflects a last-ditch effort by the conservative wing in the House to show their disgust with a deal they have no practical means of stopping. It came after Democrats had enough votes lined up in the support of the detail to assure that not only would Congress be unable to overturn a presidential veto of a disapproval measure, but that a Senate filibuster would prevent such a measure from ever making it to Obama’s desk in the first place.

The new maneuver is likely to go nowhere in Senate. But in the minds of House conservatives, their new plan sets up a series of votes that are more uncomfortable for Democrats, and make for better GOP political messaging down the road. It also gives the GOP one last chance to voice its collective outrage over the Iran deal, even though that was what the vote of disapproval was supposed to afford them, too.

In abandoning the framework of the compromise worked out by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the House Republicans claim that the President never did comply with the compromise’s requirement that he give all the details of the negotiated Iran nuclear deal to Congress.

“This clock has not started,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) said Wednesday, according to The Hill. “It doesn’t start until the deal is handed over and we haven’t seen the deal. It’s very simple.”

Here’s what the House GOP plans to do:

Thursday, instead of a disapproval vote, the House will begin to consider three other Iran deal-related measures: The first will declare that Obama has not complied with Corker-Cardin, as Republicans say he has withheld from Congress the details of so-called “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency and thus the period for them to review the nuclear agreement was never triggered. The second is an approval measure of the Iran deal, a move to get Democrats on record “for” the agreement. The third measure would prohibit Obama from lifting the sanctions on Iran, a key element in implementing the larger deal.

“From the public’s view point, we got a vote on it, but we didn’t stop it. That’s all they know,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told Roll Call. “What this thing does is, we’re voting on an approval, yet it failed, and therefore we disapprove it, and that’s what the public’s gonna see. No. 2 is, there’s a resolution that says, ‘you didn’t even comply with Corker.’ So the president lost in two ways.”

The votes are expected to carry on until Friday.

“Here’s what I know for sure,” Pompeo said, according to Politico. “The American people will be furious, and properly so because they will have a president who is brazenly violating the law with knowledge and intent and is putting Americans at risk providing $150 billion to terrorists when Congress told him he could not do it.”

The plan was spearheaded by Pompeo and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), and was fueled by members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who met at — yes — Tortilla Coast Tuesday to discuss the details. It also had the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who called out House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday.

“All that has to happen is for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to say the review period hasn’t started,” Cruz said at an anti-Iran deal rally outside the Capitol, where he was joined by Donald Trump. He also sent a letter to the leaders Thursday urging them to support the plan in both chambers.

Boehner had met with the members Wednesday afternoon to discuss the plan, while other GOP leaders expressed skepticism toward the idea.

“Where does that take you?” Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Politico Wednesday. “I think we know where the votes are … We ought to stay on the substance of why we oppose this deal.”

But they were not able to get in the conservatives’ way. House GOPers were also not deterred by the fact that the maneuver does not to appear to have an practical effect on stopping the deal, according to Politico.

Furthermore, the Senate is not playing along. Senate GOP leaders have scheduled a vote to invoke cloture on the disapproval measure later Thursday afternoon, where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he is confident that he has the votes to stop it from advancing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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