Endgame: Iran Deal Opponents Concede They Lack Votes to Overcome Veto

Guy Benson
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Posted: Aug 31, 2015 10:25 AM
Endgame: Iran Deal Opponents Concede They Lack Votes to Overcome Veto

This was the whole strategy behind President Obama's decision to declare the Iran accord an "executive agreement" rather than a treaty. Treaties require two-thirds support from the Senate for adoption; executive agreements, Obama has argued, don't require any vote at all. Ultimately, even Congressional Democrats were unwilling to accede to a power grab quite that brazen, especially on a deal with major geopolitical implications and that is intended to bind future presidents and Congresses. Thus, a bipartisan bill was passed that asserted the right of Congress to vote to approve or disapprove the final agreement. But with Obama's veto pen waiting in the Oval Office, derailing the deal would take a veto override -- two-thirds majorities in both houses. So the whip count math was flipped on its head: Rather than the White House needing to find 67 Senators to bless a treaty, they only need one-third of at least one house of Congress to sustain his veto of a disapproval resolution. That's a much, much lower bar, and one that Democrats are ready to clear:

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal in Congress admit they can no longer kill the accord. Their focus now is making sure there will be a vote on the agreement at all, and salvaging some political benefit from their well-funded bid to stop it. Lawmakers, Congressional staffers and lobbyists opposed to the deal reached in Vienna last month tell us they are now fighting to get more than 60 votes in the Senate for a resolution of disapproval to avoid a filibuster by Democrats supporting President Barack Obama. That is a far cry from the 67 votes in the Senate needed, along with two thirds of the House, to overturn an expected presidential veto of that resolution. Yes, overturning an Obama veto was always a longshot. House Speaker John Boehner in April was privately warning Republicans that his party didn't have the votes to stop the deal. Now Republican leaders are saying this out in the open.

The emerging concern is whether opponents of the deal will be able to overcome a Democratic filibuster, as Harry Reid says he intends to try to obstruct a vote on the accord, with the White House's strong encouragement.  Obama has never wanted Congress to weigh in on his reckless project, and he knows that vetoing Congress' rejection of the deal would be politically damaging.  The public has turned strongly against his agreement as its details have been exposed.  All 54 Senate Republicans will vote against the deal, and two Democratic Senators have formally announced their opposition.  That's 56 votes.  Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer (who isn't whipping Democratic votes on this issue) need four of the remaining dozen-or-so undecided Senate Democrats to oppose the deal -- or at least refuse to join a debate-killing filibuster.  I've argued for some time that the Corker/Cardin legislation offered critics the most viable pathway to undermining the legitimacy of the nuclear agreement with Iran.  Once Obama decreed that his treaty would be presented as something other than a treaty, Republicans' options narrowed significantly.  They could try to sue him, assuming they'd even be granted standing, or they could begin quixotic impeachment proceedings, which would delight the White House and unite fractured Democrats.  Due to Obama's unilateralism, undermining the deal by relentlessly painting it as Obama's, not America's, foreign policy is the least bad option.  Forcing the president to defy a bipartisan Congressional vote on an unpopular foreign policy misadventure would help set the stage for a Republican president to withdraw from the agreement with plenty of political cover.  If Reid can muster 41 votes to block a Senate vote, Obama may be spared that humiliation -- although critics could argue that the deal's illegitimacy is still underscored by (a) a (virtually certain) strong House 'no' vote, and (b) the denial of a US Senate vote on the matter, at the behest of the White House.  The deal is opposed by bipartisan Congressional majorities, several key US allies, and a solid majority of the American people.  It is not stable US policy, they'd say, so foreign countries and businesses choosing to regard it as such do so at their own risk because Obama won't be around to protect them for much longer.  Nevertheless, the disqualification argument would be more potent if Obama is compelled to veto Congress' bipartisan rejection of his agreement.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to press his disingenuous case for the disastrous deal, offering contradictory babble on the efficacy of unilateral sanctions, dangerously pretending that the agreement blocks every path to Iranian nukes, and -- incredibly -- whining about the tone of the debate.  This from a guy who's accused opponents making "common cause" with 'death-to-America'-chanting zealots, and who continually claims that his terrible deal is the only alternative to war (prominent Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez and now Steny Hoyer disagree).  On that front, please enjoy these quotes, both from Friday.  As Allahpundit snarks, Team Smart Power "can't even even get their smears straight anymore:"


Is DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz a warmonger?  Parting thought: If Harry Reid mounts a successful filibuster to shield Obama from a veto scenario, should Senate Republicans blow up the legislative filibuster and pass it anyway?  Jim Geraghty says they should, in addition to voting to formally declare the agreement a treaty.  I'm more skeptical of this course of action.  Obama would undoubtedly declare the move illegitimate and veto the resolution anyway.  The Senate could contend that they alone possess the authority to determine what is (and is not) a treaty, which would lead to a protracted legal battle -- all while the agreement is signed and implemented.  Having failed to block the deal, even through drastic procedural measures, Republicans would have jettisoned the filibuster forever, a move they may live to regret.  One might argue that it's worth following in Harry Reid's 'nuclear' footsteps at some point in order to ensure passage of critical conservative reforms with a Republican president poised to sign them into law; discarding precedent and a valuable check on power just to enable votes on bills that will inevitably run into Obama's veto buzz saw seems short-sighted.