Conservative Review - Are Republicans Complicit in Iran Deal?

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Bob Corker speaks to the press.

Bill Clark | AP Photo

Are Republicans Complicit in Iran Deal?

By: Brian Darling | July 15th, 2015

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Don’t get too excited if you hear Republican members of Congress speak out against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.  They set up a scenario where Republicans could oppose the Iran nuclear deal, while giving the president running room to complete the deal.  The partisan fight you are about to witness is a phony political fight, because Congress already approved this deal a long time ago.

President Obama declared “after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with its international partners has achieved something that decades of animosity has not, a comprehensive long team deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” 

If true, this is a great development. 

Sadly, this is not how many will perceive this deal.  For example, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has already blasted the deal. Cotton argued on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC “this proposed deal is a terrible dangerous mistake that is going to pave the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.”

Either President Obama or congressional Republicans are right and this debate begs the question of why congressional Republicans engaged in unilateral political disarmament when they passed legislation approving this deal months ago – the Corker-Cardin bill.

Corker-Cardin’s purpose was to allow President Obama to cut a deal and give congressional Republicans a way to express opposition to the deal through a congressional review process that is patently unconstitutional and a political farce.

More importantly, this deal is not binding because it is in the nature of a treaty.  A treaty would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution, yet Congress passed the Corker-Cardin that abrogated congressional power in a face-saving measure.  Corker-Cardin’s purpose was to allow President Obama to cut a deal and give congressional Republicans a way to express opposition to the deal through a congressional review process that is patently unconstitutional and a political farce.

 

When Senator Cotton wrote his open letter to the leaders of Iran he correctly noted, “Under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.”  Cotton further explained “a so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.”  Somehow congressional Republicans have flipped the Constitution on its head and they have allowed a bill to pass that converts the Senate into a Democrat-controlled institution where they need a super-majority of the House and Senate to stop this deal.

The Corker-Cardin bill set the table for this historic fumble on the part of congressional Republicans.  Corker-Cardin grants Congress two months to disapprove of this deal (one of those months will be the August congressional recess) with a super-majority.  Daniel Horowitz wrote for CR:

Corker-Cardin is not a weak bill, it’s a harmful bill. It implicitly blesses Obama’s negotiations even after both the White House and the Iranians have violated all of the stated objectives and timetables. It explicitly legitimizes ratification of the deal with just 34 votes, providing Republicans with no recourse to block it later on and little leverage to delegitimize the final agreement if they fail to muster enough votes to strike down the agreement.

The problem is that Republicans will spend the next month denouncing the deal and trashing President Obama when they voted to allow the Corker-Cardin framework to govern the procedure to oppose the deal.

The problem is that Republicans will spend the next month denouncing the deal and trashing President Obama when they voted to allow the Corker-Cardin framework to govern the procedure to oppose the deal.

I agree with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and want a more restrained foreign policy.  I believe in Reagan’s motto – peace through strength.  This deal is not dealing from a position of strength.  A position of strength would be a deal supported strongly by both parties for the purposes of protecting America and the Middle East from a nuclear Iran.

This deal may turn out to be the opposite of that idea, because a long lasting peace will not be achieved if Iran inches closer to a nuclear weapon.  This deal might make America less safe.  I want it to work and it is in the national security interest of all Americans for this deal to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, yet it does not seem like a deal with a lame duck president, and little support from Congress, is destined to work.

Not many Americans trust a government who was, in essence, in a shooting war with the United States when American troops were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Senator Cotton referenced this during his “Morning Joe” interview when he argued “[Iranian leaders] have the blood of hundreds of American soldiers on their hands who they killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  Does that sound like a regime we can trust?

Republican leaders had a chance months ago to dig in with Senator Cotton and to stand up for the Constitution, and they failed.  

 

Brian Darling is former Sr. Communications Director and Counsel for Senator Rand Paul.  Brian is also served in government relations for seven years at The Heritage Foundation.  He can be followed @BrianHDarling on Twitter. 

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