Now that the legislative battle to stop President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal has failed, conservatives are considering taking the fight to the courtroom.
A federal court ruling Wednesday that found members of Congress had standing to sue the administration over the Affordable Care Act has empowered some Iran deal opponents to suggest lawmakers could also bring a lawsuit against the administration over the Iran deal.
In a press conference Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) entertained the idea, telling reporters legal action was “an option that’s very possible.”
Eugene Kontorovich, a Northwestern University School of Law professor and writer for the Washington Post legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy, further laid out the idea:
Like the conservative representatives who successfully derailed a House vote to disapprove the deal, Kontorovich’s argument depends on the idea that the president withheld certain details about the Iran agreement — namely the so-called “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency — from Congress and thus the period lawmakers had to review the agreement under compromise legislation worked out by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) was never triggered. As a result, Kontorovich said, Obama does not have the power to lift the congressionally-imposed economic sanctions on Iran, a key element of the nuclear deal.
By not complying with the terms of the Corker-Cardin compromise, Obama would be infringing on Congress’ ability to regulate foreign commerce, specifically with regard to Iran sanctions, the argument goes.
“By not transmitting the relevant materials, the president is preventing Congress from exercising its legislative authority,” Kontorovich wrote.
He also laid out a path for states to sue the Obama administration over the deal, as the lifting of the federal sanctions under the Iran deal could impede states’ sanction regimes and open states up to lawsuits, he said.
“Either an enforcement action by a state or an anticipatory suit by businesses against state sanctions would give the state the opportunity to raise the legal challenges about Corker-Cardin,” he wrote.
This rush to find a legal path to undermine the Iran deal comes as Iran hawks were unable to muster the votes to stop it through the previously agreed-upon political process. Not only did supporters of the Iran deal have enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of a legislative effort to reject the deal, they also had enough votes in the Senate to filibuster the disapproval measure, saving Obama from the embarrassment of having to veto a disapproval measure.
At least one Republican moderate has thrown cold water on the idea of taking legal action.
“I’ve talked to a number of attorneys, and all the folks I’ve talked to on that legal strategy [say] that we will not be successful in court,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told reporters Thursday after the Boehner press conference.
He added that pursuing a lawsuit would “take a hell of a long time to get a resolution.”
Correction: This post has been updated to show that Sen. Ben Cardin is a Democrat and Sen. Bob Corker is from Tennessee.