Things are getting interesting on Capitol Hill, as it looks like the House has had it with Mitch McConnell and the GOP in the Senate.
National Review broke the story tonight of a plan being floated to put the Iran deal in an entirely different posture than the Failure Theater rubber stamp established with the Corker bill passed earlier this summer…
A House Republican passed along an e-mail detailing the new plan, which was to be unveiled during a special GOP conference meeting in the Capitol basement, currently in progress.
“1. A vote on a measure asserting that the president has failed to give Congress the required background on his Iran Deal,” the e-mail says. “2. A vote on a bill to prevent the president from lifting the Iran sanctions. 3. A vote of approval on the Iran Deal, which will force Democrats to cast a vote in support of what the president is doing.”
The photo above was taken at the meeting. NRO says that shows the plan is legit.
The first vote in Boehner’s plan is an action directly suggested by two influential conservative legal scholars. The first was Andrew McCarthy, who wrote a very detailed piece at NRO over the weekend outlining that the Corker bill, as stupid as it was, established a standard of disclosure Obama was required to meet where Congressional determination of the Iran deal was concerned, and since the administration has utterly failed to disclose to Congress all the side arrangements in the deal that standard has absolutely not been met.
Over deep opposition from the base voters who gave the GOP control of both houses of Congress, Republican leaders insisted on passing the anti-constitutional, Obama-backed Corker legislation on the (absurd) rationale that only by doing so could they make sure that the full agreement, every bit of it, would be revealed to Congress and the American people. This was a meager objective, since revelation of a disastrous deal is useless if, to get it, Congress had to forfeit its power to reject the deal. But regardless of where one stood in the intramural debate over whether achieving full exposure of Obama’s Iran deal was worth surrendering Congress’s constitutional advantages, the blunt fact is that full exposure has not been achieved.
The mandate that the Iran deal must be revealed in its entirety represents both a solemn political commitment by Republicans and an explicit legal requirement of the act. Obama has failed to comply with that mandate. Therefore, the Corker review process must not go forward.
There are many more things to be said about this. For example, it remains true, as I have previously asserted, that the Corker process should be deemed null and void because Obama’s indefensible deal is fundamentally different from the narrow nuclear-weapons pact that the Corker legislation assumed. Obama’s deal purports to relieve our enemies of restrictions against their promotion of terrorism and acquisition of ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. The Act prohibits this. Under its provisions, the Corker review process may be applied only to an agreement restricted to Iran’s nuclear program. See subsection (d)(7): “United States sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under an agreement.” (As we’ve seen, “agreement” is defined in subsection (h)(1) to relate only to “the nuclear program of Iran.”)
The whole thing is well worth a read, as among the other points McCarthy makes is that a Congressional shutdown of the Corker process wouldn’t necessarily stop Obama from relieving the sanctions but it would insure that it is only Obama the lame duck president doing so, and not the American government as a whole, and as soon as Obama is gone that policy will change. He also discusses the efficacy of the Senate declaring the resolution a treaty, for several reasons; most prominently among them that the deal would alter the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But no sooner did McCarthy’s piece get bandied about in the conservative blogosphere on Tuesday after the end of the Labor Day weekend but Mitch McConnell rejected its premise outright. In doing so, McConnell stressed the importance of getting Democrats on the record voting on the Iran deal, when doing so would produce the known result of protecting an Obama veto, as the president already has more than 34 Democrats supporting the deal and voting against the disapproval of it – and potentially 41 Democrats willing to filibuster the resolution, which would make a complete mockery of the entire Corker process.
Which is Failure Theater in its distilled form. You hold a vote which serves to legitimize the Iran deal rather than calling it a treaty and doing no worse than putting the issue into the courts to decide whether it is one, and you call it a good course of action because you can say Democrats are hypocrites for having passed the Corker bill and now filibustering the disapproval vote, as though anybody cares about such a hollow victory.
McCarthy’s reasoning was echoed by Ted Cruz, who said Wednesday at the Capitol Hill rally against the Iran deal (which Pew, by the way, found has only 21 percent support among the public, an astonishing number) that “The review period has not started and does not start until the entire deal is submitted to Congress and the president cannot lift these sanctions until the review period expires.” Going further, Cruz said “Therefore I call upon leadership of my party—Leader McConnnell, Speaker Boehner—simply enforce the terms of Corker-Cardin [review bill].”
McConnell had a staffer tell The Hill that “He seems to be the only member advocating a totally different strategy from what everyone agreed to before.”
But the House is now crafting a strategy along the precise lines laid out by Cruz and McCarthy, though its third vote is in fact a vote on the disapproval resolution McConnell is trying to drag out of his membership.
Regardless of that, this is a direct shot across McConnell’s bow and a repudiation of his actions in favor of Cruz, the supposed pariah of the Senate (and, interestingly, the man Boehner called a “jackass” just a month ago).
An obvious conclusion from this is Boehner, whose position as House Speaker is hanging by a thread, has now recognized that he has reached the end of Failure Theater among his own membership and will lose his position if he can’t direct a battle to victory on one of the issues facing Congress this month. But more than that, Boehner politically can no longer afford to have his name lumped in with McConnell, and he has to extricate himself from the Senate.
Discussions The Hayride has had with prominent members of the House leadership team have centered around the concept that it’s McConnell’s refusal to fight which are dragging the GOP down with its own voters, and the House is being denied credit for the work it has actually done to further a conservative agenda because of his weakness. The 12 appropriations bills passed in the House but being filibustered in the Senate, for example, have placed the GOP in position to budget by the terms of a concurrent resolution and a potential shutdown fight, staging the battle in the worst terms possible for things like de-funding Planned Parenthood.
It looks as though Boehner and the House leadership have decided to make those disagreements on tactics an open political issue. They’ve decided they’re not going to go down with the Senate GOP ship. The question is whether this pressure shakes loose any support for Cruz on the Iran deal – and if not, what that could mean for incumbent Republicans facing re-election among an electorate in an ugly mood about the party’s Washington leadership.
UPDATE: Via Breitbart, Rep. John Fleming explains that Boehner really is being forced to follow his membership in this open break with McConnell…
“As you know we met this morning and they presented to us pretty much a vanilla plan that we would go forward with the Corker bill, we would vote on it, we knew we would lose,” Fleming said.
We would pass the disapproval in the House but we would lose in the Senate—it would be filibustered in the Senate—so many of us weren’t happy about that. I voted against the Corker bill to begin with, I thought that was the wrong approach. Mr. Pompeo made a really good argument, and he didn’t like the Corker bill either. He talked about what a problem it was, and in the end after a lot of people talked about problems with it, Mr. Roskam asked for a privileged resolution to vote on his bill which was basically a resolution saying the president had never met his obligations to provide all the documents. If you look at the language in it, it says all the documents. Not some of them, or just the ones we know about, it says all of them—all of the agreements with all of the parties. Also, the Speaker and the leadership team got a real sense that if they tried to bring that—the rule—up for a vote today, which was planned at 1 o’clock, that they would fail. So what happened was they went back and talked to Pompeo again and brought Roskam in and talked and even threw in some more ideas and what they came back with was something completely different which I really like.
Fleming explained the new plan, which conservatives forced leadership to adopt.
“First of all, there is a resolution—or sense of the House—that the president did not meet his obligations by providing all the parts of the agreement that he should,” Fleming said.
That’s another way of saying in effect we can’t go forward on Corker because the clock didn’t start. So then number two is that we have a vote of approval not disapproval which as you know will fail because there won’t be enough votes to approve it. Then number three will be a vote on a bill that says the president should keep the sanctions in place, that he cannot lift the sanctions. There were still some members who still support the old Corker bill, but he [the speaker] was pressed and pressed and pressed on it that at the end of the day the speaker said “you know what, the rule was going to fail anyway, so there’s no way we can move forward on the disapproval vote in the Corker bill.”
Fleming said he got the sense that even Corker bill supporters would go for this new strategy, and that it looks like it may be successful. Fleming added, though, that leadership pulling the rule vote is “huge” in the context of the long struggle between conservatives and moderates in the party.
“I think it means that people who opposed this approach, which I think was primarily conservatives—I don’t know how much of that was just the Freedom Caucus but I can tell you that much of the Freedom Caucus was prepared to vote against the rule,” Fleming said.
But I would tell you that there are a lot of other people, some conservatives and some not conservatives, who were prepared to vote against the rule as well. I think that this was a moment where we were going to vote on something with such tremendous gravity and we were going to vote our conscience and that meant to vote against the rule. Voting against the rule means voting against even having a vote on Corker because at the end of the day it would only end up being perceived by the public as a rubber stamp by Congress and that means agreeing with the president that it is the right way to go. I’ve been challenged on that—people say how is the failure of a disapproval an approval by Congress? I tell people that the only thing our constituents are going to know about is this is the president’s plan and it’s terrible. It’s worse than I think anybody could have imagined. Congress had a bill to stop it and they failed to stop it—therefore they must have approved it.